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The Celtics get several big tests interspersed throughout the year, as they travel to South Beach to face the Miami Heat, led by the new Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
The Heat are coming off an NBA Finals appearance that saw them lose in six games to the Dallas Mavericks, while LeBron James demonstrated his remarkable ability to disappear in the fourth quarter of close games.
This year, the Heat are back, and they want redemption. After they failed to win a title and appeared to validate doubters, they'll look to reload and win it all in 2012.
Before they do, however, they'll need to go through Boston first. Although the Celtics won the regular season series three games to one, the Heat bested the Celtics in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last May.
The Heat showed that they can go toe-to-toe with the aging Celtics, especially in the paint, in which it seemed that Chris Bosh had his way with Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal.
The Celtics' defense needs to find away to slow down LeBron and D-Wade, while KG and whatever help he gets in the front-court must stop Chris Bosh like they were able to in the regular season.
No doubt the Heat have more youth and talent than Boston, but the Celtics still maintain that old edge in experience, and they can still wear teams down. Still, they'll need to be on their A-game very quickly, which is a tall order considering age and the workout-inhibiting lockout.