The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have made it past the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs and will now collide for the Eastern Conference championship and the right to represent the East in the NBA Finals. The Heat advanced past the Atlanta Hawks (4-1) in the first-round and then the Philadelphia 76ers (4-2) in the second. The Celtics swept their way through the Brooklyn Nets (4-0) in their first-round matchup and then found themselves battling and taking down the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in a hard fought seven game series.
Now the #1 (Heat) and #2 (Celtics) seeds in the East will do battle to advance and face the winner of the West Finals, the Golden State Warriors or Dallas Mavericks (make sure to check out that prediction article too). The Heat secured home-court advantage with the #1 seed and they will need it as this series is going to the end. Both teams have a strong starting lineup, solid in all five positions (minus injuries), and the Heat get the slight nod with fire power off the bench with Sixth-Man of the Year winner Tyler Herro. The Heat also get a slight nod in the coaching department. First year coach Ime Udoka has the Celtics playing their best ball of the season after a rough start, but you can’t compare that to the experience of Erik Spoelstra, who has led the Heat to 5 NBA Finals appearnaces and 2 NBA championships.
On the topic of injuries, it has already affected the series as Game 1 will be played without Celtics starters Marcus Smart and Al Horford, as well as Heat starting PG Kyle Lowry. When these players return and who else picks up an injury along the way can shift the balance one way or the other. The Celtics are arguably the best defensive team remaining in the playoffs, but the Heat are a close 2nd. Both are teams that can run and hurt you with the fast break, but the C’s get the advantage in the halfcourt game.
So, when it’s all said and done, why am I predicting the Heat will win? Jayson Tatum of the Celtics will be the best player on the court in this series. His ascension as a superstar in this league is apparent and on display. He’s played in the Eastern Conference Finals before so nerves will not be a factor. Jimmy Butler of the Heat is the heart and soul of his team, as well as its best player. Having been to the Finals in the 2020 Bubble Season, he is wanting to prove that wasn’t a fluke and that the Heat are championship contenders. His strong will, his wanting and needing to win it all is what will be the difference in this series. While Butler won’t have to “carry” the Heat on his own, he will need to be playing at the TOP of his game on both sides of the ball.
PREDICTION: Heat in 7
[*** Photo Source: DenverPost.com ***]