By Julian Benbow, Globe Staff
MIAMI — The Heat were watching all throughout the Celtics first-round series. They had a chance to polish off their series with the 76ers Sunday but squandered it. Then they had to see the Celtics tie a bow around the Knicks in four games, the example the Heat wanted to make of their first-round opponent.
“We were going for a sweep a game ago, but didn’t get that,” Dwyane Wade said.
Instead, they needed a fifth game to put Philadelphia away, getting 26 points from Wade, 22 points from Chris Bosh, and an unexpected 20 off the bench from Mario Chalmers in a 97-91 series-clinching win Wednesday night.
“The reward is a battle with Boston,” said Bosh. “And we know it’s going to be a long, long series.”
They’ll face the team they’ve measured themselves against since they assembled their trifecta of All-Stars.
Bosh said, “It wasn’t if, it was when.”
The feeling of inevitability went all through the Heat locker room.
“I think we always felt that it would happen at some point,” said LeBron James. “Didn’t know if it was going to be in the first round, second round, Eastern Conference finals. We just always felt that at some point we would have to go through Boston and play Boston to get where we wanted to get. So it’s here now, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Celtics won the season series, 3-1, but the Heat gained a degree of confidence when they won the last meeting. Still, they understand the team they saw a few weeks ago is different from the one they’ll see when the series starts Sunday.
“We understand where we are in this league and understand where the Celtics are,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “They have proven themselves. If we want to get to where we want to go and the goals we set for ourselves, we have to go through them. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t play them.”