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MIAMI -- For the 26th time, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will square off with LeBron James in a playoff game when the Brooklyn Nets open their second-round series against the Heat on Tuesday night.
Pierce says it's only natural that there's some dislike between the two former Celtics and James. The Nets swingman, though, says it's not anything personal.
"I think it is more of a basketball thing," Pierce said before the Nets' shootaround prior to Game 1, when asked if there is any dislike between him and James. "We are aiming for the same prize and only one of you can get it, you know?"
I think that is a big part of my success, period. I am not intimidated by nobody in the league. There are always going to be great players and there's always going to be challenges. That is one of my greatest strengths. I am not afraid to face challenges or any matchup in the league.” -- Paul Pierce
"I mean, it's going to be a dislike there," Pierce continued. "That's nothing that has carried over off the court. I think everything -- the dislike for me, LeBron, or Miami or Cleveland -- it's all based on what we are both chasing, and that is about it."
This is the fifth time Pierce and Garnett will face James in seven postseasons.
James took a 13-12 edge in playoff games over Pierce and Garnett after the Heat beat the Celtics in seven games in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
Heat star Dwyane Wade said he thought "we buried them" with that last postseason victory. Boston eventually went into a rebuilding phase, and Pierce and Garnett were acquired by Brooklyn last summer to provide the Nets with the experience and leadership necessary to win in the postseason. And here they are, facing the Heat again.
"They don't ever go away," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about Wade's "buried" comment. "Seriously. Look up the storylines the last time we played the two guys when they were in the green in the playoffs. It was the same storylines. If anybody had forgotten, that series went seven."
"With us, those two guys may be wearing black and silver," Spoelstra added. "But there's green underneath it somewhere, so it's all the same to us."
Pierce was asked if he and James have a relationship off the court.
"No," Pierce replied. "I really don't have a relationship with anybody in the NBA outside my teammates. You know? These are guys that I respect. Been to the All-Star Game with a lot of them. It is a mutual respect. That's all. It is not like I am calling anybody. My friends are pretty much who I grew up with and my family."
Times have changed since Pierce last saw James in the playoffs. James is a two-time champion now. And Pierce wears black these days.
Some things won't change. Pierce and Garnett say they respect James, but they won't back down one bit and are eager to try to beat James again.
"I think that is a big part of my success, period," Pierce said of his mentality. "I am not intimidated by nobody in the league. There are always going to be great players and there's always going to be challenges. That is one of my greatest strengths. I am not afraid to face challenges or any matchup in the league.
"At the end of the day, it is still the Miami Heat standing in your way of what you want to accomplish, and that's a championship."