NBA Playoffs 2011: Will History Repeat Itself for LeBron James vs. the Celtics?

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Will History Repeat Itself for LeBron James vs. the Celtics?
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Last season with home-court advantage in the series and visions of finally wining that elusive championship, LeBron James, as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, began the series against the Boston Celtics in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Celtics defense immediately made life difficult for LeBron James and company.

The Celtics jumped out to a 54-43 lead at the half of Game 1 in the series and appeared to be in control after harassing Cavs forward Antawn Jamison, guard Anthony Parker and center Shaquille O'Neal into shooting 33 percent from the field. The Cavs eventually rallied, when James' and point guard Mo Williams led the team to the 101-93 come-from-behind win.

In Game 2, the team was not so lucky, as the Celtics obliterated the Cavs 104-86 en route to a disheartening six-game series loss, which set up James' emphatic removal of his Cavs jersey and the much maligned "Decision" less than three months later.

Now, James appears to be on the verge of either repeating that history or amending it. His Miami Heat team, which will face the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs, will be seeking to do what James' Cavs teams of 2008 and 2010 were not able to—beat Boston.

The Celtics will be both rested and prepared to once again end James' season.

The Celtics may not be sporting the same level of depth they had last season when they boasted a perimeter shooting big man in Rasheed Wallace and a spark plug off the bench in Nate Robinson. But the team does boast the Fearsome Four of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, each of whom played a major part in the previous James eliminations.

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Rondo has even gained a reputation of being the de facto "LeBron-killer" after his dominant performance against James' Cavs last year.

It certainly can be argued that the Miami Heat are in no way the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Celtics will have a much more difficult time beating James' team this year.

Instead of Jamison and Williams, who barely showed up throughout most of the series last year, James will be playing alongside All-Star and NBA champion Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, whose reputation as being "overrated" does not prevent him from boasting the best stats of any third option in the NBA.

But ominously, the Celtics can claim to have several solid matchup advantages against the Heat.

Rondo, who averaged 19ppg, 12apg and 7.25rpg in the series against the New York Knicks, clearly holds a significant edge against either Heat point guard Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers. Kevin Garnett, if he is focused and intense, could make life difficult for Chris Bosh.

Ray Allen, if he can free himself from Wade's defense through screens and picks, can get hot from the field in a hurry. Plus, Wade has had his problems offensively this season against Boston, and the team has simply shut down his driving game and forced him to score from the perimeter which he has done with limited success.

Back in 1991, when the Chicago Bulls finally overcame that huge roadblock standing in their way of championship success, the Detroit Pistons, Bulls guard John Paxton famously said, "finally beating them might have been more gratifying than wining the title."

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While James would never say that specifically, beating the Celtics this season and effectively ending their domination of the Eastern Conference will be a significant achievement in solidifying his legacy.

James knows that even if his Heat team does beat Boston in the upcoming series, there is still plenty of work to do if the team's goal of hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in June is to be realized.

But to finally conquer the green monster responsible for many a sleepless night in James' career, would there be any reason to believe he can't overcome the further playoff obstacles this year as well? 

James hopes that this year he can alter the course of history rather than being history at the hands of the Celtics.

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