One Big Three stands in way of the other

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One Big Three stands in way of the other

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI For years, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were hell-bent on breaking through the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

That meant getting past the Detroit Pistons, a perennial NBA power in the early-to-mid 2000s that frequently ended the Cavaliers' season.

Dwyane Wade had similar struggles with the Pistons during that time period as well.

Now teammates with the Heat, both see the Boston Celtics in a similar light on the eve of today's Game 1 second-round matchup.

"They ended all our seasons," James said. "We decided to join forces, Like Captain Planet."

Indeed, Wade and James, along with Chris Bosh from Toronto, have been the most talked-about trio of players since, well, Boston's Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces in 2007.

The Celtics' Big Three had their ups and downs in that first year, but those trials and tribulations paid off with Banner 17.

Celtics players from that team understand exactly what the Heat is looking to do right now.

"Even with the players we had, it wasn't easy breaking through," Boston forward Glen Davis told CSNNE.com recently. "But when you break through, you know it. Everybody knows. Then it becomes about staying on top."

And that brings us to today's game, one that features a team that has already achieved great success - Boston - against a Miami Heat team that is expected to win it all this year - just months after coming together.

From a championship-like celebration before the season started, to all the talk about winning multiple championships, the pressure to bring home the Heat's second NBA title has been on from the very beginning.

As much as Miami players embrace that role, they understand that it's not going to be easy.

And if they are to in fact do it, it'll have to include dethroning an aging - but still very dangerous - Celtics team.

"At some point, if they're healthy and they play well, for you to get to the top, you will have to go through them," Miami's Zydrunas Ilgauskas told CSNNE.com. "At some point, you're going to run into them. That's OK. You want to beat the best to be the best. We wouldn't have it any other way."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”