Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat need four more victories to get to the NBA Finals for a second straight season, but standing in their way has been the team that has dominated the Heat throughout the regular season, the Boston Celtics.
The Eastern Conference Finals will mark the fifth time in seven year that either Boston or Miami will win the Eastern Conference championship. Game 1 tips off Monday night and the Heat have expected that Boston would be the final roadblock to the NBA Finals.
“Was there any doubt that it’d be us and Boston,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra asked reporters.
Miami and Boston met last year in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with the Heat prevailing in five games. In one of those games, Rajon Rondo suffered a gruesome elbow injury that some say changed the series.
During this year’s regular season, Boston was won three out of four from the Heat. Both teams know that means nothing when it comes to the playoffs. For Heat star LeBron James, he has a real chance to exorcise some demons against the Celtics.
It was just two years ago that Cleveland fans said LeBron quit on the team during a playoff matchup against the Celtics. It marked LeBron’s last series as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron had to carry those Cavaliers teams and he will very likely have to carry the Miami Heat again in this series. But, he’ll have a running mate capable of helping him carry the load in Dwyane Wade. The duo were unstoppable in the last few games against the Indiana Pacers and will have to continue to play at that level.
“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.”
But this year’s Celtics team is far from healthy.
The Celtics lost Avery Bradley for the rest of the season and star guard Ray Allen is hurting and has had trouble finding his shot. The Heat are also dealing with Wade’s nagging injuries and the loss of Chris Bosh, who isn’t expected back in this series.
The Celtics have averaged 88.1 points in the playoffs, while Wade and James are averaging 53 points between them.
For the Heat, they want to get the game moving and into a quick transition/fast break style of game. Boston knows they will lose that type of series. On the flip side, Boston wants a slow, methodical pace that can neutralize the athletic advantage the Heat have in the series.
Either way, the Celtics and Heat are going to play a very physical series and both sides know, it’s not going to be an easy road to the Finals.
“It’s great theater for the fans and everybody out there,” Spoelstra said. “For us, it’s great competition. That’s what you want at this time of year.”
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals tips off at 8 p.m. at the AmericanAirlines Arena.