- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
BOSTON -- As the New Jersey Nets-Miami Heat game spilled into overtime Wednesday, reporters found themselves crammed into the hallway outside the Celtics' locker room, huddled around an iPhone playing the final moments of the game, eager to see the outcome that would dictate Boston's first-round playoff opponent.
But as Mario Chalmers dribbled down the clock, preparing to take a potential winning shot, Celtics captain Paul Pierce emerged from the trainer's room, decked out in sunglasses, and walked straight out of the building.
Pierce didn't seem to care that Chalmers' 3-point attempt was off the mark, forcing a second overtime, where the Heat (finally) prevailed 94-86 to set up an opening-round series with the Celtics.
Inside the Celtics' locker room, the Nets-Heat game also was met with indifference. Kendrick Perkins, reclining in a chair in the middle of the room, stood up at the end of the first extra session and decided it wasn't worth sticking around.
Several teammates followed suit.
Ray Allen emerged and didn't even glance at the television that reporters were circled around, still awaiting a final score.
"I know the game is on," said Allen. "At some point we'll know who we are playing. I'm not worried about it."
Allen knew the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that defeated the Celtics 106-95 on Wednesday night in what amounted to a junior varsity game were across the hall watching the same game, eager to see if they'd be extending their stay in Boston.
But Allen figured it didn't matter if it was Milwaukee or Miami who would be occupying the visitor's locker room this weekend.
"It has nothing to do with those two teams," said Allen. "It's all about us."
With Wednesday's loss, the Celtics concluded the 2009-10 season at 50-32, but were a pedestrian 27-27 after Christmas.
During that stretch, Boston has shown championship-caliber potential at times and struggled mightily against some of the poorest teams in the league at others.
So the way the Celtics view it, their first-round opponent doesn't matter. If Boston plays to its potential, it feels like it can beat anyone -- Miami or Milwaukee, Cleveland or Orlando.
"It's a different atmosphere at playoff time," said Rajon Rondo, the only starter who played Wednesday. "It's a different feeling, a different vibe -- everything."
Boston won all three regular-season matchups with the Heat and, while the Celtics understand Miami is more than a one-superstar team, their ability to defend Dwyane Wade may decide how the series plays out.
"It's more than Dwyane Wade," said Rondo. "It's [Michael] Beasley, Chalmers, Jermaine O'Neal. I think [Wade] has a good supporting cast, but the bulk of it is stopping Dwyane Wade. I think that if we don't stop him, we can stop the other players."
And how do you try to stop Wade without losing track of his capable teammates?
"I don't have that answer," admitted Rondo. "Hopefully Doc [Rivers] does, and I'll be waiting for it [at practice Thursday]."
The Celtics stressed that they are ready for the postseason, regardless of the opponent.
"Yeah, we're ready. Definitely," said Rivers. When a follow-up question asked how Rivers felt going into the postseason, he quipped, "What part of, 'We're ready,' don't you understand? We're ready and I believe we're ready. We'll find out anyway, but I do believe we're ready to play."
Boston's been here before. You could almost feel the atmosphere in the locker room shift into playoff mode. Players started to show a focus that's been lacking since Christmas.
"Every team that is in the playoffs is here for a reason," said Allen. "Whatever happens, adversity hits, we pick it up and become a resilient bunch of guys. Whatever happens, we want to get better and improve. We did that in . As the playoffs went on, we weren't great, we put a lot of expectations on ourselves, but we figured it out on the way."
The Celtics have to flip on the playoff switch they've talked about many times this season.
"It's not like we can say, 'Can you hold up for a week and let us get ready?'" said Rivers. "I think we'll be ready."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
9hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins