Who would have thought? The three-seeded Boston Celtics are facing off against the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season. Jimmy Butler had a chance to send Miami to the NBA Finals in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, but the shot would not fall. Will the Heat get their revenge, or will the Celtics win the Eastern Conference once again? Find all the information you need to know heading into this matchup below, including a prediction!
Regular Season Matchups
Celtics at Heat: 10/21/2022
Result: Celtics 111-104 Heat
Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 29 points, 10-for-22 shooting, 7-for-7 shooting from the line, four assists
Heat G Tyler Herro: 25 points, 10-for-21 shooting, 2-for-6 shooting from three, six rebounds
Heat at Celtics: 11/30/2022
Result: Celtics 134-121 Heat
Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 49 points, 15-for-25 shooting, 8-for-12 shooting from three, 11 rebounds
Heat C Bam Adebayo: 23 points, 10-for-19 shooting, six rebounds, five assists, two steals
Heat at Celtics: 12/2/2022
Result: Heat 120-116 Celtics
Heat C Bam Adebayo: 28 points, 10-for-18 shooting, 8-for-9 shooting from the line, three assists
Celtics G Jaylen Brown: 37 points, 12-for-23 shooting, 5-for-11 shooting from three
Celtics at Heat: 1/24/2023
Result: Heat 98-95 Celtics
Heat C Bam Adebayo: 30 points, 12-for-22 shooting, 6-for-8 shooting from the line, 15 rebounds
Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 31 points, 9-for-18 shooting, 14 rebounds, seven assists
Celtics Matchups on Heat
Smart on Vincent
Brown/Tatum on Strus
Tatum/Brown on Butler
Horford on Love
Williams III on Adebayo
Heat Matchups on Celtics
Vincent on Smart
Strus on Brown/Tatum
Butler on Tatum/Brown
Love on Williams III
Adebayo on Horford
Robert Williams III- With the Celtics facing a 3-2 deficit in the second round, head coach Joe Mazzulla went back to the two big lineup with Al Horford and Robert Williams III. That decision paid off for Boston, as they were able to frustrate the MVP in Joel Embiid. Williams III had a 37 +/- across Game 6 and 7 against the 76ers, showcasing his relentlessness and physically on the defensive end. The 25-year-old will need to do more of the same against Bam Adebayo, who was extremely impactful in Miami’s series with the New York Knicks.
Malcolm Brogdon- The Sixth Man of the Year has performed at an incredible level in his first season with the Celtics, providing consistent scoring and playmaking off the bench. When Mazzulla chooses to go small in this series, Brogdon is going to play extended minutes alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. If he is able to have some games where he can score 15-plus points at high-efficiency, that will make their offensive attack that much more dynamic.
Kyle Lowry- The 37-year-old dealt with injuries throughout the regular season, limiting him to just 55 games. As a result, Lowry lost his spot in the starting five to Gabe Vincent, the third-year guard out of UC Santa Barbara. Coming off the bench did not phase the veteran, showing all of his qualities in the series against the Knicks. Lowry averaged 12.2 points and 5.7 assists across six games, even securing some timely offensive rebounds. He is a champion and will need to lead by example in this upcoming matchup with the Celtics.
Max Strus- With Tyler Herro unavailable for this series, the importance of Strus and his three-point shooting becomes significantly heightened. The Heat are at their best when Jimmy Butler is able to freely attack off the dribble. Miami will need Strus and Duncan Robinson to keep the Celtics defense honest, forcing Boston to stay attached on the perimeter. Strus averaged 8.3 points in last year’s playoff series against the Celtics. The Heat will need more from him in order to pull off the shocking upset.
How Boston Can Win:
The Boston Celtics will win this series if Jayson Tatum continues to play within himself. He said, “I’m, humbly, one of the best basketball players in the world” after his performance in a Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Tatum silenced all of the critics with his 51 points in Game 7, sending the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston will need their star to stay aggressive, even when his shot is not falling. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and the rest of their core will have important roles to play, but they will only go as far as Tatum takes them.
How Miami Can Win:
The Miami Heat will win this series if Bam Adebayo is the dominant force on both ends of the floor. Jimmy Butler has raised his game in these playoffs, and that should continue against the Celtics. That puts pressure on the “others” for Miami, one of which is Adebayo. The Heat need their big to dominate down low, using his quickness and strength to alter shots and create second chance opportunities. Without Tyler Herro, it becomes far more difficult for them to create off the dribble. It won’t be easy for Miami, but if Adebayo is impactful most nights, the Heat can win a hard-fought series.
Series Prediction: Boston Celtics over the Miami Heat in seven games
If the Celtics play at their best, I don’t see a scenario where the undermanned Heat can win this series. Miami did a phenomenal job to advance past the Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks, but their run will come to an end against Boston. My decision would have been a bit more difficult to make if Tyler Herro was available, who provides a combination of playmaking and three-point shot-making. Erik Spoelstra is maybe the best coach in the league and will come up with an effective gameplan, giving Miami an opportunity to advance in Game 7. But Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will shine again, earning their place in the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season.