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Celtics ready to ‘set the tone early’ in home opener vs. Heat after Game 7 loss

Boston’s first meaningful home game after their elimination from the 2023 NBA Playoffs is against the same team that knocked them out.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Five Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

BRIGHTON, MA — It’s been 151 days since the Boston Celtics suited up for a meaningful game at TD Garden. The last time was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Fresh off Derrick White’s monumental buzzer-beater, the Celtics crumbled against the Miami Heat and missed their chance to make their second straight NBA Finals appearance.

Now, they’re set to take on that same Heat squad in their home opener on Friday night. Months may have passed since their last agonizing defeat, but the memories are still very much alive.

“I’m excited to start at the Garden. To play here at home in front of our fans,” Al Horford said at Thursday’s practice when asked about Boston’s playoff exit vs. Miami. “We’re obviously disappointed with how last year ended for us. We’ve talked about that. I’m excited to see this group and what we’re going to get to do tomorrow.”

Boston retooled their roster this summer, swapping out key rotation pieces for two stars in Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Meanwhile, Miami’s summer-long quest to land Damian Lillard failed, and their squad looks largely the same.

That said, the Heat are still the same team the Celtics faced last year. And in 2022. And in 2020. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro are all in place, and as is always the case with Miami, depth manages to spawn out of nowhere.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Regardless of the status of the two teams’ official rivalry, whenever the Heat are in town, a battle is bound to ensue.

“I feel like any time you play the Heat, it’s a big game,” Derrick White said on Thursday. “Especially being a home opener, [we want to] have a good showing for the crowd. They’re going to be amazing. So, those two [things] combined, it’s going to be a fun game.”

In December of 2022, as the Heat were on their way to Boston to play the Celtics, Butler recorded a video on the plane. He said, “Boston, I’m on the way.”

At that point, Butler’s Heat were seeking revenge from when the Celtics bounced them from the 2022 playoffs. Boston took home the win in Game 7, much like the Heat did this past season.

Fast forward nearly one year later, the Celtics are ready to bring that same energy in front of the fans at TD Garden.

“A team that we’re super familiar with,” Brown said of the Heat after Friday morning’s shootaround. “We’ve played them a bunch of times in the playoffs. A team that we got history with. Tonight, we come out, the start of a new season, looking to set the tone early.”

The Celtics tip-off against the Heat at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time tonight on ESPN.

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