Celtics vs. Heat Eastern Conference Finals Series Preview

Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Boston (-130) is favored to win the series over Miami (+105)

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  • The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics kick off the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night. The five-seed Heat impressed the nation by knocking off the top-seed Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the Conference Semifinals, while the three-seed Celtics needed seven games to finish off the two-seed Toronto Raptors.

  • The Celtics and Heat match up well on both sides of the floor. They both prioritize strong team defense, aggressive team offense, and outside shooting. The Celtics had commanding victories in both regular-season matchups with the Heat, but came up short against Miami 112-106 in the bubble seeding games.

  • Get your popcorn ready for this star-studded series. Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler may be the star veterans of these squads, but the real story for each team so far has been the continued development of their emerging young stars. The Celtics have been fueled mainly by 2020 All-Star Jayson Tatum and third-year forward Jaylen Brown, while the Heat have had tremendous contributions by Tatum’s fellow All-Star Bam Adebayo, as well as rookie phenom Tyler Herro.

  • Per DraftKings Sportsbook, the Celtics (-130) are favored to win the series over the Heat (+105).

  • Boston (-125) is favored over Miami (+105) ahead of Game 1 with the over/under set at 209.5 total points. The Celtics are 1.5-point favorites. CLICK FOR LIVE GAME ODDS!

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Fundamentally Strong

These teams were very good during the regular-season, but they've been elite on both sides of the ball since the start of the playoffs. The teams stand out on the defensive end, with the Boston Celtics owning the top defensive rating this postseason while the Miami Heat rank fourth. The Celtics have allowed 102.0 points per 100 possessions, while the Heat have allowed 106.3.

No team has held opponents to a lower percentage than Boston in the playoffs—their opponents have shot 40.5 percent. They also hold foes to the worst three-point percentage in the postseason at 30.5 percent. Miami allows opponents to shoot 44.5 percent from the floor (sixth), and 34.8 percent from three (fifth).

The Heat, however, have shot the ball a little better, scored more points, and allowed fewer rebounds. Miami has hit 46.1 percent of their shots (fifth in the postseason) to Boston’s 45.0 percent (ninth). Miami's third-best three-point percentage in the playoffs of 38.0 percent far exceeds Boston’s 34.1 percentage from deep (13th). On top of that, Miami allows the second-fewest opponent rebounds per game (40.1) and averages the fourth-most assists per game (24.4).

Boston controlled the tempo in their first two meetings with Miami in the regular-season, winning 112-93 on December 4th and 109-101 on January 28th. The Heat eked out a 112-106 victory over the Celtics in their August 4th seeding game in the bubble. The Celtics and the Heat both swept their respective first-round playoff opponents, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers.

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Dynamic Leaders And Matured Youth

The Heat and Celtics have very similar roster compositions in that they both have strong veteran leaders as well as young emerging talent. Miami's main catalyst on both ends of the floor is perennial All-Star Jimmy Butler, averaging 21.8 points, 5.6 boards, 4.2 assists, and 2.1 steals in the playoffs. To a lesser extent, veteran point guard Goran Dragic has been a quiet leader, adding a surprising offensive punch with averages of 21.1 points and 4.7 assists.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have Kemba Walker as their quiet veteran floor general who seems like he can put up 20-5-5 in his sleep. They also have vocal leader, master defender, and longest-tenured guard in Marcus Smart, who seems to operate at his best when the lights are the brightest. Case in point: five-consecutive three-pointers in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 win over Toronto, and a series-clinching fourth-quarter block on OG Anunoby in Game 7.

First-time All-Stars Bam Adebayo for the Heat and Jayson Tatum for the Celtics have really put these teams over the top, and the continued emergence of rookie Tyler Herro and fourth-year stud Jaylen Brown have solidified each team’s status as title contenders.

A strong power forward, Adebayo can score on the interior using his size and touch, or stroke it from the midrange. He serves as one of the elite young defenders in the league, and passes extraordinarily well for a player his size and age. He has shot 54.1 percent from the floor and 87.0 percent from the line, while averaging 16.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game in the postseason.

Tatum leads the Celtics in the playoffs with 25.3 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting and a staggering 41.9 percent from deep. He also leads the team in postseason rebounds per game (10.1), and ranks second in assists (4.3) and blocks (1.2). He has provided a perfect balance of aggressive inside-out play, stroking it from deep or pushing the envelope with strong penetration.

Then there’s Brown and Herro, who both seem wise beyond their years. Brown has averaged 19.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and has shot 89.1 percent from the line. His stifling defense took Raptors All-Star Pascal Siakam completely out of the second-round series. Herro has hit some huge shots for Miami, while also doing his part defensively, on the glass, and as a creator.

Intriguing Matchup

This series seems very evenly matched, and given their season-long track record as well as their success in the head-to-head matchup with Miami this year, it’s hard not to lean toward the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals.

Don’t be surprised if the well-rested, strong-shooting, and defensive-focused Heat pull off the upset in Game 1. They have superb coaching and leadership, they're getting offensive contributions from many different players, they shoot the ball well, and they can defend just about anyone. Midseason acquisitions Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala have been absolutely huge for Miami's defense and have moved this squad from “on the bubble” to “the top of the bubble.” Mark down the Heat for Game 1, but take the Celtics in seven.

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