MIAMI -- On the eve of an elimination game that could potentially oust the Boston Celtics from the postseason, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade cited the reigning Eastern Conference champions as an inspiration for joining forces in Miami.
"They set the blueprint for us when they decided to make the trade for [Kevin Garnett] and for Ray [Allen]," James said. "Seeing guys make sacrifices to come together and play as one. They set the blueprint and went out there and did it. They won a championship. They competed every year."
Boston has ejected James from the NBA playoffs two of the previous three seasons. James' last game in a Cleveland uniform came in Boston on May 13, 2010, when his Cavaliers bowed out to Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"With LeBron losing to Boston in Cleveland in the playoffs, he felt like, 'I gotta do more, I need to be around more to contend for a championship,' " Wade said. "Me feeling the same way going into the summer, saying that I needed more, it was because of Boston. They knocked us out."
The Heat shoved the Celtics to the brink of elimination with a 98-90 overtime win in Boston on Monday. Miami now leads the best-of-seven series 3-1, and can close out the Celtics at American Airlines Arena in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
"It's the second round, but this is an Eastern Conference finals kind of buildup series," Wade said. "It's been played out that way."
Teams with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series have lost the series just eight times in 199 series. Even though the Heat are now heavy favorites to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, they insist they aren't looking ahead.
"By no means do we feel the series is done, not against a champion like they are," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We have tremendous respect for Boston. They've inflicted so much pain on us the last three or four years that it's hard not to have that respect."
Wade was quick to reject the notion that a Heat victory would signal a permanent power shift in the Eastern Conference.
"Boston isn't going anywhere," Wade said. "They'll be back next year. They're under contract. If we win, they're not going anywhere, so it's not really a changing of the guard. It's not like if we accomplish this, that's it for them -- they're going to break it up. That team will be back."
Kevin Arnovitz covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.