The Celtics are facing off with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in the past decade. If history is any indication, there will be no love lost.
The roots of the Celtics’ dislike for the Heat began growing when Danny Ainge was playing for the Celtics and Pat Riley was coaching the Lakers during their rivalry in the 80’s. In 1993, when Ainge was playing for Phoenix and Riley was coaching the Knicks, both were ejected from a game for being heavily involved in a classic brawl.
Riley and Ainge’s true feelings towards each other didn’t really surface until 2010, when the Celtics and Heat began to develop a rivalry of their own. The C’s beat Miami in five games in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, a series that featured this fight:
And this game-winner by Paul Pierce:
Then LeBron took his talents to South Beach in the 2010 off-season, the Celtics beat the Heat early-season match-up, and Pierce ruffled some feathers with this tweet:
It's been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach now on to Memphis
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) November 12, 2010
To which Udonis Haslem responded:
“Paul who? Man, ain’t nobody paying them dudes no attention, man. You know what studio gangster is? Look up that, look up the definition of studio gangster. I’m here to play basketball. First of all, I don’t tweet. So I wouldn’t know what he tweeted if you guys didn’t tell me.”
Miami beat Boston in five games in the second round of the 2011 playoffs, but they would meet again in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. It was one of the more poorly officiated series’ in the history of the league due to the fact that the NBA was on a mission to get LeBron his first ring, but the aging C’s still pushed the king to seven games and even had a 3-2 lead after this dagger by Pierce:
Shortly after the series ended, Ray Allen pulled a Judas and joined the enemy, which only strengthened the tension between the two teams. Pierce and KG deleted Ray’s number, and Garnett gave him the cold shoulder on opening night the following season:
During the 2012-13 season, Danny Ainge criticized LeBron James during a radio interview for complaining to the refs too often, and Pat Riley took offense:
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f–- up and manage his own team,” said Riley. “He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing, and I know that because I coached against him.”
Ainge had no problem stoking the flames when asked about the comment:
“I don’t care about Pat Riley. He can say whatever he wants,” said Ainge. “I don’t want to mess up his Armani suits and all that hair goop. It would be way too expensive for me.”
Seven years later, these two teams and their owners who can’t stand each other are meeting again with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. No words have been exchanged between Ainge and Riley, but the series has already proven to be a dog fight after one game. The rivalry continues.