"They went out and got talent, man. That's gonna show," Rivers said, per the Boston Herald's Stephen Hewitt. "That's gonna show. I think what they've really done, to me, what they didn't have in the past, and I think every team has to have it, you have to have closers. You can be as good as you want to be, and at the end of the game you need to have guys who are going to close the game for you. Now they have those. I don't know if they've had that in the past, and now they do."
Rivers added that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens are "never scared to make moves or changes," as evidenced by their offseason moves.
Boston signed Gordon Hayward, which was largely expected. The team then threw a curveball when it acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers, sending the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected 2018 first-round pick, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder among other assets to Cleveland.
Whether Hayward and Irving are enough to put the Celtics over the top in the Eastern Conference is up for debate. But Boston is clearly building a roster that can not only compete in the short term but also put the team in a position to dominate the East for years to come should LeBron James leave the Cavs and head west.
Rivers' point about the Celtics lacking "closers" may be somewhat off-base, though. Boston ranked fifth in net rating (14.9) in clutch situations, according to NBA.com. Thomas was also second in the league in clutch points (223), per NBA.com.
Thomas' hip injury is unquestionably an unknown variable, and Ainge said it played some role in the team's decision to trade him. It's fair to expect Thomas may be a worse scorer in clutch situations, thus necessitating the addition of a scorer like Irving.
At the same time, much of the Celtics' success late in games could be chalked up to Stevens' coaching and the team's ball movement. Throwing in a ball-dominant guard such as Irving who relies heavily on isolation changes the equation and could ultimately make Boston a less efficient unit when the game is on the line.