MIAMI – It's a rematch: Miami and Boston will meet in the playoffs again, this time with a spot in the NBA finals at stake.
Boston's 85-75 win in Game 7 over Philadelphia on Saturday night earned the Celtics a trip to Miami, where the reigning East champion Heat will host Game 1 of this year's conference title series Monday night.
Boston took the regular-season series from Miami 3-1, though the last of those meetings was in the final game of the season and came on a night where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all sat out for Miami, while Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen got the evening off for Boston.
The lineups will look more normal Monday, though Bosh will remain sidelined because of a strained lower abdominal muscle.
"Let's do it," Garnett said Saturday night, just before leaving the floor after Boston's win.
It'll be a quick turnaround for Boston, with Game 1 in Miami starting about 46 hours after Game 7 against the 76ers ended. The Heat finished off their East semifinal series against Indiana on Thursday night, took Friday off and held a light practice Saturday — focusing on themselves and not starting to work in details either the Celtics or the 76ers.
"We'll be well-prepared," Heat forward LeBron James said Saturday, before Boston and Philadelphia settled their series. "Our coaching staff will put us in position to win ballgames."
The Heat ousted the Celtics in last year's East semifinals, doing so in five games. Boston topped Miami in five games in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs, the last series the Heat played before obtaining James and Bosh to play alongside Wade.
James also faced Boston in the 2010 playoffs, the end of that series marking his final time in a Cleveland uniform before deciding to join the Heat. He was planning to watch the Boston-Philadelphia game at home Saturday night, then get into his usual game-preparation mode Sunday.
"There's enough time for us to get ready," Wade said.
Having only one day to get ready would make it seem like both sides would be signing up for a cram session, but it's not like there's going to be any real secrets on either side. James, for example, has already played the Celtics 48 times in his career, the last 44 of those coming since Doc Rivers took over as Boston's coach.
"I mean, I've played Boston enough with Doc Rivers at the helm and those guys, they don't change," James said. "They shouldn't change. They've been successful. They won't change."
The Heat erased a 2-1 deficit in their series with the Pacers, eventually winning in six games with James and Wade combining for 197 points in Miami's final three victories.
Miami clearly hopes some of that momentum carries over to Monday night.
"The most important thing is us playing to our identity," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We improved the last three games. We were able to play our type of game, to defend and rebound. We did a much better job of that the last three games, and then played at a pace that was more appropriate for us. We were able to score more points that way, but more important get the type of actions that we like."
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