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Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Heat-Celtics

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In a riveting 7-game series, Jayson Tatum (27.6 PPG in series) and the Boston Celtics defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo (33.9 PPG and 14.7 RPG in series) and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics will face off against the Miami Heat on May 17 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

What does this matchup mean for the Heat, and what can Miami do to come out on top and take their talents to the NBA Finals?

Overview

The Heat have played the Celtics three times in the regular season, resulting in a 1-2 record:

  • 11/4: 78-95 Loss
  • 1/31: 92-122 Loss
  • 3/30: 106-98 Win

Off first look, this is scary; however, there are plus sides here:

  1. In the first loss, the Heat held Jayson Tatum to 10 points on 23% shooting.
  2. In the second loss, the Heat were missing three starters: Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, and P.J. Tucker.
  3. Game three will be the most similar to what one should expect the series to look like, with Lowry (health depending), Max Strus, Butler, Tucker, and Bam Adebayo starting against Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Tatum, Grant Williams, and Al Horford.

In three games, the Heat held 3x All-Star, Jayson Tatum, to 17.7 PPG on 42.2% shooting and 29.4% shooting from deep.

The X-Factor of this series will be the potential return of Celtics center Robert Williams, and if Grant Williams can ride his hot game 7 into the conference finals.

Matchup

Based on lineups each team used in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Heat match up incredibly well with the Celtics:

  • Gabe Vincent – Marcus Smart
  • P.J. Tucker – Jaylen Brown
  • Jimmy Butler – Jayson Tatum
  • Max Strus – Grant Williams
  • Bam Adebayo – Al Horford

Look for the key switch of Tucker guarding Jaylen Brown to slow down the Celtics offense.

Size

The Celtics and Heat are extremely similar when it comes to size. Both teams play a style of position-less basketball, where many players can run multiple positions. Neither team has a problem playing small ball. This could result in seeing a lot of run-and-gun offense.

Shooting

Another similarity in the Celtics and Heat have been their shooting numbers. In the playoffs, the Celtics have shot 45.4% from the field and 37% from deep, with key players like Al Horford shooting 45% from downtown along with Grant Williams shooting 41%.

The Heat have not shot the ball as well from deep, shooting the long ball at a 32% clip, but they are shooting 46.4% from the field. One bright spot to this is P.J. Tuker shooting 48% from downtown, and Robinson (when playing) shooting 47.8% from distance.

Superstars

The matchup everyone should want to see: Jimmy Butler vs. Jayson Tatum.

These two players have been outstanding in their Playoff games. What more could one want from a Conference Finals matchup?

Jimmy ButlerJayson Tatum
10 Games11 Games
28.7 PPG28.3 PPG
7.6 RPG5.6 RPG
5.4 APG6.1 APG
2.1 SPG1.3 SPG
1.7 TO4 TO
52.5 FG%43.8 FG%
36.4 3PT%38.6 3PT%

Defense

The Heat and Celtics are neck and neck for the best defensive team left in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, with the Heat having a slight edge in Defensive Rating at 104.6. Miami also edges Boston in opponent second chance points, opponent fast break points, and opponent points in the paint.

This Eastern Conference Finals could be a gritty seven games.


Be prepared to watch a battle when the Celtics take the floor against the Heat on May 17. Both teams are well-equipped to make big runs at any time.

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