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Sports

November 17, 2007

Miami had what the Celtics want

BOSTON - The similarities were not lost upon Miami Heat head coach Pat Riley.



"Two years ago, we made the blockbuster deals, reinvented ourselves and went on a run," said the 62-year-old coach before last night's game. "Right now, (the Celtics) have put together a great team with three great players, and they are a force on defense."



It wasn't easy last night. In fact, it was a nail-biter. But that was good. It made for a more dramatic changing of the guard.



Want to know the best-case-scenario for this season's Boston Celtics? Look no further than the team sitting on the opposite side of the scorer's table last night, the Miami Heat.



Well, that's not really true, given the recent struggles the Heat have faced, including last night's 92-91 loss to the C's. But the team does still resemble the one that hoisted the NBA Finals trophy two seasons ago.



It was Miami who, before the 2005-06 NBA season, went out and grabbed all the veterans it could get its hands on (Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, etc.), not unlike a certain team in green this season.



While the additions may not have been the caliber of the players the C's brought in this season (they already had Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, after all), the spirit was still there.



That and the question, "Can they all play together?"



In Heat's case, of course, the answer was yes, given they won the NBA championship that season. Miami managed to overcome a sea of egos and finish off the Dallas Mavericks in the finals.



But the NBA finals are a distant memory for Miami.



The Heat are not rebuilding. Four of the five starters from the title team (O'Neal, Wade, Udonis Haslem, Williams) remain and veterans such as Ricky Davis and Penny Hardaway have been added.



But that hasn't stopped Miami from falling to 1-8. Wednesday's loss to then-winless Seattle was rock bottom, and its lone win was against the lowly New York Knicks.



"You got to watch out for teams like this," said the Celtics' Paul Pierce. "They're desperate for a win and they had Wade back. We let our guard down for a minute and they struck."



Miami did push the Celtics to the brink, taking the lead with less than a minute to play. But that in itself showed where the two teams are.



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