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NBA playoffs pair James against Pierce, Garnett once again

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The NBA playoffs occasionally have some new developments. But almost every year without fail, it seems the NBA playoffs have one recurring thread. In some way, LeBron James always seems to meet up with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the postseason, with their latest grudge match starting on May 6 along with the rest of the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.

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The Nets got to the second round of the playoffs by the skin of their teeth against the Toronto Raptors, while the Heat are the most rested team in the NBA. While almost everyone else was fighting in six and seven games during the first round, the two-time defending champion Heat were on the sidelines after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats.

Ironically, Miami faces a team that swept it in four games during the regular season. Nevertheless, Brooklyn is now facing the rested, healthy and focused champions in the postseason. But it does help that the Nets have players who faced and beat James in the playoffs before -- albeit not recently.

Pierce and Garnett joined the Boston Celtics in 2008, and immediately crossed paths with James in that year's postseason. They beat the then defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers in seven games in 2008 -- with Pierce and James having a classic duel in Game 7 -- and then brought an end to James' career in Cleveland two years later. But after leaving for Miami, he had his way with the star duo, as well as Boston, twice over.

Now Pierce and Garnett hope a change of scenery will give them the edge over James this time. This is the rubber match of their personal NBA playoff rivalry, as Pierce and Garnett won the first two before James evened it up. If he doesn't extend his personal postseason series winning streak over them, however, it would be an upset that shakes the league.

While elite teams have already been tested throughout this postseason, the Heat have been the one exception. The Nets may have big names and championship winners, but that was barely enough to get by the young, inexperienced Raptors. Having it be enough against the two-time champions is a much taller order, even for the likes of Pierce and Garnett.

The accompanying list further details the milestones in this three-way NBA playoff rivalry, before a new -- and perhaps final -- chapter begins.

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