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Jimmy Butler is bringing the Heat for East finals rematch

Miami comes to Boston for the first time since the Celtics took the Eastern Conference title last spring.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) drives to the basket as Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) defends during the first half of an NBA game Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Miami. The Associated Press

The Miami Heat don’t seem to draw the vitriol of Boston’s basketball fans like other teams do. The Lakers are despised, obviously. So, too, are the 76ers, Knicks, and Nets — especially in recent years.

But if the Celtics were to identify their biggest rival over the past 15 years — the era since the arrival of the new Big Three — it’d be hard to argue there’s a team more deserving the title of archenemy than the Heat.

Most recently, Miami and Boston met in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final, which was a slugfest of a series that wasn’t decided until Jimmy Butler’s would-be game-winner banged off the iron in the final seconds of Game 7. But it was only two years before that the teams went toe-to-toe in the Orlando Bubble, again with the Eastern Conference crown at stake.


It goes back a bit, but Miami and Boston also went seven games in the 2012 East Final, which is remembered as the final act for the triumvirate of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. That marked the second straight year the C’s were eliminated by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Heat — and essentially passed the baton of conference supremacy, with Miami winning back-to-back NBA titles from there, and Boston soon after disbanding its core.

Over recent seasons, every game between the sides seems to be hard-fought and competitive, which fits with the culture Miami has created around Butler and coach Erik Spoelstra, and what the Celtics are trying to cultivate around the talent of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

In fact, that competitive spirit was on display when Boston landed the first blow of the season, beating the Heat, 111-104, in late October. But that should only give Miami more reason to be seeking revenge when they come to TD Garden the week after Thanksgiving.

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