Heat Vs. Celtics: Rivals On Different Trajectories Set To Clash

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 27: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks during a game against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on December 27, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat head to Boston to take on the Celtics in the first of three games the teams will play in the season's final month.

The Miami Heat visit the parquet floor and the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon, reigniting last season's most intense rivalry. The Heat have struggled to find much consistency since the All-Star Break, losing by double digits to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers on back-to-back nights last week. They were once challenging the Chicago Bulls for the top seed in the Eastern Conference but, even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have put several games between them.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have hit their stride in a big way of late, thanks in part to contributions from Avery Bradley filling in for an injured Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett has played with renewed vigor since moving to the center position, and things seem to be clicking in Boston. The C's have overtaken the Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic Division with four straight wins against some weaker competition (Wizards, Bobcats, Timberwolves and Jazz), but Sunday's game opens up a make-or-break week against stiff competition. After the Heat, the Celtics will play the Spurs, Bulls, Pacers, Sixers, Heat again and Hawks. WIth a successful performance in that stretch, they could solidify their spot as the No. 4 seed in the conference.

Although LeBron James' MVP candidacy has seemed like a foregone conclusion for most of the year, the past few weeks have cast his hopes for his third award into doubt, especially as Kevin Durant has emerged as a legitimate challenger. With a big performance against the Celtics on Sunday's national stage, James can again show why he's the most deserving of the award. If he produces another clunker, the criticisms may escalate louder than they've been all year.

Game Date/Time: Sunday, April 1, 3:30 p.m. ET

Location: TD Garden, Boston

TV: ABC

For more news and notes on these teams, check out Heat blog Peninsula Is Mightier, CelticsBlog and SB Nation Boston.

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