By A. Sherrod Blakely
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."