They called Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce dinosaurs in the first round. On Monday, Dwyane Wade took the gag a step further.
For the Heats star shooting guard, Garnett and Pierce apparently have risen from the grave.
On the eve of the second round on Monday, Wade joked that he didnt think he would ever be seeing former Boston Celtics Pierce and Garnett again in the postseason.
But here they are, reanimated stars playing for a reanimated franchise all funded by one Dr. Frankenstein of an owner. The Heat and Brooklyn Nets begin their second-round series on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who moved the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn, has spent $180 million an NBA record in salary and luxury tax this season to bring together a team deep enough and experienced enough to challenge the Heat.
At the center of his creation are Pierce and Garnett, familiar villains in Miami.
The Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors in seven games to advance to the second round. At the beginning of that series, one Toronto tabloid called the first-round matchup Raptors vs. Dinosaurs. Wade went with the undead allusion.
We thought when we played them in Boston, we thought we buried them, Wade said.
Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh knocked Pierce and Garnetts Celtics out of the playoffs in 2011 and 2012. The following season, the Heat stole away Ray Allen. The year after that, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers bailed out of Boston as well.
Wade, James and Bosh joined forces, in part, to topple the Celtics dynasty. They did that. Now the roles are reversed, and Pierce and Garnett are with a team full of talent whose main goal always has been to unseat the Heat.
When we first started this thing, they were the big bullies on the block, and we had to come in and try to impose our will, Wade said of those old Celtics team, and it took us a while to get there, but I think eventually we did.
Wade joked about burying Pierce and Garnett, but the Heat, of course, isnt a team of youngsters either. In fact, the defending back-to-back champions have an older average age than the Nets.
At 30.6 years old, the Heat and Dallas Mavericks were the oldest teams in the NBA this season, according to basketball-reference.com. The Nets were third oldest at an even 30.0.
And then theres this: Both Wade and Garnett missed the same number of games this season (28).
Wade has played Pierce and Garnett three times in the playoffs, and this will be James fifth time in seven years to square off against Pierce in the postseason. James lost to Pierce and Boston twice before joining Wade in Miami.
Overall, James postseason record against Pierce is 13-12. Mismatches and strategy likely will be a focal point as this series progresses, but James said he has played Pierces teams enough in the postseason to know its not about Xs and Os.
Its just about getting out there and playing as hard as you can defensively and making timely adjustments and winning, James said.
Those are things the Heat failed to do this season against the Nets. Brooklyn swept the Heat 4-0 in the regular season and also defeated the Heat twice in the preseason.
In the four regular-season losses, the Heat averaged 15 turnovers with James committing 17 overall. Limiting turnovers was a point of emphasis in the first round. The Heat averaged 10.5 giveaways per game against the Bobcats.
Of course, that was a long time ago.
We havent played since last Monday, but weve been in that gym every day, James said. But I think its fun to feel like youre back a part of the playoffs.
The Heats seven-day break between playoff series was spent conditioning and battling against one another as if it were preseason-training camp.
Last season, the Heat had a long break after sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks and then lost to the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the second round.
For Bosh, the long layoff was more difficult to overcome mentally than anything else.
[Against Chicago], we just kind of came into the game and just started playing. We werent really into it early, and they caught us on our home floor, Bosh said. [Tuesday] were really going to have to get ourselves pumped up from the jump and have to play our style of basketball.
Especially against these guys. Theyre going to want to play at their pace. They want to slow the ball down and really execute on the offensive end and really flatten you out on the defensive end. We have to make sure were moving the ball early and just come in with a really, really great sense of urgency and energy.
A longstanding feud with Pierce and Garnett might be just the thing to kick start the Heat back into playoff mode.
They beat us four times, and I dont care if its by one point, Wade said, emphasizing the close losses to the Nets this season. At the end of the day its about getting wins, and they figured out a way to beat us four times, so we got to crack that code.