The eastern conference finals are set and we will have the number one seed Miami Heat facing off against the number two seed Boston Celtics. The Heat were able to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in six games to get to the conference finals. The Celtics outlasted the Bucks in a grueling series that went the full seven games. If you believe the most rested team going into a series has an edge, that edge definitely goes to Miami.
Photo courtesy of ESPN
These two teams faced off in the eastern conference finals in the 2019-2020 season. Who can forget that crazy series that happened in front of no fans as this was in "the bubble". In the photo above you see Heat center, Bam Adebayo making one of the best defensive plays of all time as he blocked Jayson Tatum's dunk attempt with the game on the line. This upcoming series will be even better than the one we got in 2020. All of the players that made the 2020 series great, are better now. So the question is how does each team win?
Keys to Winning For The Celtics
Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Being a Star in Your Role
In the last series against the Milwaukee Bucks, the role players for the Boston Celtics, came up huge. They need those players to step up in this series as well. They will need to have "The Al Horford Game" , "The Marcus Smart Game" , "The Grant Williams Game". They need those moments that will go down in history because the Heat will have games where they are able to hold Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown below their normal production.
It sounds very simple, right? Box out!! Anyone who has played organized basketball at any level, just heard their coach's voice in their head. It is a very simple thing that sometimes the professionals forget. The Celtics cannot forget to box out as Miami is very good at getting offensive rebounds in huge moments of the game. PJ Tucker is known for crashing in and getting big boards for second chance opportunities. Jimmy Butler is always sneaking around as well looking for those chances. The Heat have the second most offensive rebounds of the four teams left in the playoffs with a total of 101 over their 11 games behind Golden State who has 108.
Push The Rock / Patience
The Celtics need to push the ball and try to get as many baskets as they can before Miami sets up their defense. Miami held Philadelphia under 100 points in four out of the six games, three of the four with Joel Embiid playing. One of the weaknesses for the 76ers is that they are a slow paced team, which played right into Miami's hands. Boston has to make sure the game does not get to slow. While also not rushing possessions. In the instances where they are not able to get a shot in transition, they have run their offense and try to get the best shot. Selective aggression will be key.
Keys To Winning for the Heat
Photo via CBS Sports
Not Every Herro Wears A Cape
This will be a series where points will be hard to come by and the Heat will need someone who can be instant offense. This is where the Sixth Man of the Year winner needs to show up and be the guy he was all year. He has not been that in the playoffs so far, averaging 13.8 points per game while shooting, 42% from the field and 27% from 3. During the regular season, Herro averaged 20.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 44% from the field and 40% from 3. That's the Herro the Heat need.
Jimmy Butler has been huge in the playoffs, not just this year but has always been ready for the big-time moments. There are times where Butler wants to serve up scoring opportunities to his teammates to start the game and then will insert his scoring in the second half. In this series he needs to look for his shot right away. Then that will open up the floor for his teammates.
Nip and Tuck
PJ Tucker was a huge key to the Bucks defeating the Nets in last season's playoffs. He didn't score that much but he made Kevin Durant work for every basket. Durant still put up incredible stats but we saw the wear and tear of having to work so hard to score, take its toll as Durant ran out of gas at the end of the series. Tucker will be asked to do the same to Jayson Tatum. Tatum will put crazy good numbers but in the fourth quarter will his legs be gone from working so hard that his patented side-step three point shot falls short at a pivotal moment. Tucker has to be a menace on defense for Miami to have a chance.
This will be a great series of lowing scoring games where every possession has a tense feeling. There will be stretches where both teams are putting on defensive clinics being able to switch pick and roll coverage, double and rotate over, throw in zone, while the offenses get stuck in place. Miami will play an awesome series but it won't be enough to overcome the emergence of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. Celtics win this series in seven games.