The Boston Celtics are getting used to being counted out, and they're hoping to continue proving people wrong.
The team is getting set to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row. Although the Celtics enter as the higher seed after finishing second in the East, they're considered underdogs in the series. Not only are they going up against the best player on the planet in LeBron James, but they'll do so without stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Don't expect Boston to roll over, though. The Celtics were in a similar position in the previous round against the No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers, and sent them packing in five games.
"We weren't gonna lay down for nobody, no matter who was counting us out," Terry Rozier said Friday, as quoted by ESPN's Chris Forsberg. "We weren't going to just let the teams come in and punk us. We were the No. 2 seed for a reason. With injuries, without, we were the No. 2 seed, so obviously we were doing something great all season and ... you can keep counting us out.
"We'd rather (the media) count us out. We don't want anybody on our side now. We're doing good and we play better when our back is against the wall."
James and Co. downed the Celtics in five games the previous year, when Boston held the No. 1 seed. Al Horford, who's one of four remaining players from that roster, believes the current team has a better shot of dethroning the King. He cited the Celtics' perimeter depth and players like Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, and Semi Ojeleye, who are "suited more to guard LeBron."
James is coming off a series in which he dominated the top-seeded Toronto Raptors, averaging 34 points, 11.3 assists, and 8.3 rebounds in the sweep. For his part, he said he's not taking the Celtics lightly, despite winning six consecutive playoff games in Beantown dating back to 2012. Game 1 tips off Sunday at TD Garden.