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Monday, May 2, 2011

James gets another chance to end Celtics hex

AP

MIAMI — LeBron James planned to spend a large part of Saturday studying film, looking for any edge that the Miami Heat may use against the Boston Celtics.

News photo
King's ransom: LeBron James, left, will have to get by Paul Pierce, right, and the Celtics if he hopes to reach the NBA Finals. AP

Film from this season, that is.

No need to watch the Celtics inflicting past playoff wounds on him. Those remain fresh — and time has not yet healed them.

The inability to beat Boston is one of the biggest reasons why James is now wearing a Miami Heat uniform. He'll get a third attempt to top the Celtics in a postseason series starting Sunday when the teams collide in Game 1 of what may easily become an epic Eastern Conference semifinal.

"It is personal," James said Saturday as the Heat finished practice. "It is. Absolutely right. You don't want to keep getting beat by the same team, the same team keep sending you home to plan a vacation. So it is personal."

The Celtics expected him to say nothing less.

"It would be personal for me," Boston forward Paul Pierce said. "I'm sure he's going to take it personal and you've got to expect his best."

Unwittingly or not, the Celtics played a huge role in setting up an offseason unlike any other in NBA history. Boston gave James a big push toward Miami for a strength-in-numbers approach with the Heat that wasn't possible during the two-time MVP's stint with the Cavaliers.

Collectively, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh figure to rate a better chance, and that theory is about to get put to the real test. They left a combined $51 million on the bargaining table last summer, and victory in this best-of-seven series may make that money seem exceptionally well-spent.

"I think you've got two really good teams, two teams with a lot of will, two teams with a lot of pride," Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said. "And I think it's going to be a great series."

The Celtics have 17 NBA championship banners, and there's at least that many story lines for this matchup.

Boston's Shaquille O'Neal wants to come back from injury for this series, as does Udonis Haslem for Miami. The Heat know they need to find ways of getting Wade going against the Celtics, which didn't happen in the regular season. Boston wants to exploit what it figures to be a significant edge at point guard with Rajon Rondo over the duo of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers.

And there's that small matter of the teams just plain not liking one another.

"Playoffs is a new season," Boston forward Kevin Garnett said. "New situations, new scenarios. So everything we've done up to this point is just history."

In Miami's case, the history is not good.

Not only did Boston oust both Wade (in the first round) and James (in the second round) from last year's playoffs, but the Celtics have won 18 of their last 21 meetings overall against Miami — even after the Heat rolled to a 100-77 win at home on April 10, the lone time they knocked off the defending East kings in four matchups this season.

The dominance has extended into the playoffs, too.

Of the 15 players on Miami's roster, nine have been ousted from past postseasons by the Celtics.



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