Heat and the Celtics are very familiar playoff foes

San Antonio's Tim Duncan (21) blocks a shot by Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in Game 1 of the Western finals, which ended too late for this edition.
San Antonio's Tim Duncan (21) blocks a shot by Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in Game 1 of the Western finals, which ended too late for this edition. (DARREN ABATE / AP)
Posted: May 28, 2012

In 2010, Boston ousted Dwyane Wade in the first round and LeBron James in the second round. A year later, Wade and James were teammates and turned the tables, sending the Celtics into the offseason.

Here comes the tiebreaker.

Celtics-Heat, one more time - with a berth in the NBA Finals as the reward.

For the fifth time in seven years, it will be Boston or Miami winning the Eastern Conference championship. Game 1 of that series is Monday in Miami, with the Heat saying it almost seemed predestined that they would be seeing the Celtics again, and Boston's perspective being that the team in green is exactly where it expected to be as well.

"Inevitable. It's the matchup the game of basketball wants," Wade said Sunday afternoon. "Obviously, with the Chicago Bulls being out, this is the biggest matchup the Eastern Conference can have."

"This is what it's all about, you know, conference finals," Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. "We definitely didn't like the way we left last year. So we'll see what happens, man. We'll see what happens. Let's get it on."

Miami beat Boston in five games in last year's East semifinals, and the Celtics took three of four games from Miami this season. Both sides cautioned against reading too much into those results.

James said the game changes in the playoffs, even more so as teams get deeper into them. The Celtics know what he wants to do, he knows what the Celtics will try, familiarity born from James' having already faced Boston in 18 playoff games - more than any other active player, and more than any club the reigning MVP has squared off with in the postseason.

"I wouldn't have it no other way, personally," James said. "It's really the only team I'm accustomed to playing in the playoffs. No matter where I go, I find a way to play Boston. ... We've got a lot of history."

James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lost in seven games to Boston in 2008. In 2010, the Celtics topped the Cavs in six games, one round after easily beating the Heat in a series punctuated by Wade's vowing that he wouldn't lose another first-round series for a long time to come. Last season, Miami's five-game win was far from easy. And this time, the perception of the Celtics is that they're old, tired and weary.

"No. Get out of here with that," Wade said. "I don't believe none of that. No feet hurtin', no tired, no nothing. This is the Boston Celtics. They're all 100 percent to me because when they play the Miami Heat, different ball game and vice versa. Ain't no story lines, no excuses."

Boston did not hold practice Sunday, instead handing out scouting reports and flying to Miami.

"We'll be ready," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "It's going to be a tough turnaround, but listen, we're not an excuse team. We'll be ready on Monday."

His players said they welcomed the short turnaround.

- Associated Press

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