Back to South Beach for C's

Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

The Celtics are going to have to figure out how to slow Dwyane Wade and the Heat.BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will clash for the third consecutive postseason when the Eastern Conference finals open Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

With their own Big Three assembled last season, Miami ousted Boston in 5 games in the second round en route to the NBA Finals. But Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said the Celtics won't be looking for revenge this time around.

"Last year is in the past. This year we are a totally different team," said Rondo. "We feel we can beat Miami. Obviously, we got to this point. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can, so we gotta go down there and take care of business.”

Rondo toughed out the end of last year's series with a dislocated elbow suffered in Game 3. Boston is nursing its own batch of maladies this year, which only makes the task at hand that much tougher.

"It's what it is, man. (The Heat are) playing well right now," said Kevin Garnett. "They beat a very tough Indiana team. I think LeBron (James) and (Dwyane) Wade are playing at high levels right now. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves, so it should be an interesting series.

"This is the cream of the cream. This is what it's all about, conference finals. We definitely don't like the way we left last year, so we'll see what happens, man. We'll see what happens. Let's get it on."

The Celtics are sure to be underdogs, particularly coming off a grueling (and often ugly) seven-game series with the 76ers. Boston has already played two more playoff games than the Heat, who have also been resting since closing out the Pacers on Thursday.

"It is what it is; We’re up for the challenge," said captain Paul Pierce. "We know how tough it is to win in this league, especially in the playoffs. We know how hard it is to win a championship. So we expect this to be tough.”

Echoed Mickael Pietrus: "We know that we have to focus on Miami. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a tough matchup. But we’re willing to take the challenge all the way, and do what we’ve been doing: just fight.”

Garnett was playfully asked after Saturday's Game 7 triumph over the 76ers if he had any thoughts on Miami fans (this after drawing the ire of some by suggesting Philly had 'fair-weather' fans).

"Not at all," said Garnett, eliciting laughter. "You got me with that once, you won't get me twice."