This wild stat puts Celtics-Heat rivalry into perspective

This wild stat puts Celtics-Heat rivalry into perspective originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- The Miami Heat will have no trouble navigating their way around TD Garden on Friday night.

The Boston Celtics open their 2023-24 home slate against the same Heat team that ended their season at TD Garden on May 29 in Game 7 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, the Celtics and Heat have met in three of the last four East Finals, with Boston winning in 2022 and Miami advancing in 2020 and 2022.

The modern Celtics-Heat rivalry extends back even further, though: The teams also faced each other in the 2010 and 2012 postseasons, splitting those series in two epic battles between two Big Threes: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen versus LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. (The C's topped Miami in the first round in 2010 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, while the Heat defeated Boston in the 2012 East Finals en route to an NBA championship.)

For context, that's six playoff series in the last 13 years with a total of 37 games -- 14 more than the next-closest "rivalry."

The stakes are much lower Friday night, but Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra -- who has been on the Miami bench for all six playoff matchups against Boston -- still relishes in the postseason familiarity between the teams.

"I just think it's a great privilege to be able to have these kinds of rivalries where you face each other in the playoffs," Spoelstra said before Friday's game.

"You don't get as many opportunities for that in this league as you used to, because there's so much turnover. That's either player turnover or staff turnover, there's organizations turning everything over, especially after there's some losses in the playoffs. So, you actually treasure these opportunities."

In some respects, Celtics vs. Heat is a "throwback" rivalry with a parallel to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry of the 1980s, with both teams' cores remaining relatively intact. Back then, it was Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish squaring off against Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy in the NBA Finals. While there's been slightly more turnover on these Celtics and Heat teams, the marquee stars -- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for Boston; Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for Miami -- have remained the same.

Celtics newcomers Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis will get their first taste of that rivalry Friday night in their TD Garden debuts for Boston.

"When you get new players in and they think they know what it's like to play in here, and then they play at the Garden as a Celtic, it's a really different perspective," Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said Friday. "It just makes it that much more meaningful."