|ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2012||[Print without images]|
“For the fifth time in seven years, it'll be Boston or Miami winning the Eastern Conference championship. The Heat say 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. So we accept the challenge and we look forward to the series." Added Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "Was there any doubt that it'd be us and Boston?" Well, maybe a little. Spoelstra watched Boston's Game 7 East semifinal matchup against Philadelphia without a notepad, not wanting to start game planning until the winner was decided. And that didn't come until late in the night, when Rajon Rondo -- forced into the closer's role after Pierce fouled out with 4:16 left -- delivered time and again down the stretch, carrying the Celtics to an 85-75 closeout victory. "This is a good time right now," Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. "This is the cream of the cream. This is what it's all about, you know, conference finals. 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 any of those results. Neither team is short on desperation this time around. With Pierce, Garnett and Allen possibly playing their final season together, the Celtics hope to send their veteran core out with a second championship after they won the 2007-08 title in their first season together. After squandering a 2-1 series lead and losing to the Dallas Mavericks in last season's NBA Finals, the Heat are under pressure to complete the job in the second season of their own "Big 3" era. But that task is even greater now that Miami is without Bosh, who averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds this season. LeBron James said the game changes in the playoffs, even more so as teams get deeper into it. 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 vowing that he wouldn't lose another first-round series for a long time to come. The Celtics are averaging 88.1 points in the playoffs. James and Wade are averaging nearly 53 in the postseason by themselves, and combined to score 197 in the last three games -- all Miami wins -- in the second-round series against Indiana. Clearly, a clash in styles is possible, and the Celtics are leery of what Miami can do in the open floor. "We will lose in a track meet," Allen said. "This team, they get up and down the floor. They want to score in transition. They pride themselves off of getting easy baskets. Defensively, we have to get back. Offensively, we can't play with the ball, we can't turn the ball over, we can't not execute." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
This is the Boston Celtics. They're all 100 percent to me. When they play the Miami Heat, it's a different ball game. And vice versa. No storylines. No excuses.” -- Dwyane Wade on facing the Celtics