It is official, the Eastern Conference Finals is set as the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics are set to go to battle after the Celtics dismantled the reigning NBA champion, Milwaukee Bucks, in Game 7. Boston certainly bounced back from the disappointing Game 5 loss, as they took care of business against a solid two-way team led by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. By winning two games in a row, Boston and Miami are set for an absolute thriller.
Miami finished with the first seed in the Eastern Conference this year, ranking 10th in offense and fifth in defense. Led by All-Star-caliber players including Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, the Heat were the best team in the conference all year long. They even bounced back from the ridiculous Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra fiasco late in the regular season. After making quick work of the Atlanta Hawks and ending the 76ers' title run in six games, their next target is the talented Boston Celtics squad led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
It is expected that this series will go the distance because both teams are strong on offense thanks to talented scorers and also exceptional on defense thanks to All-Defensive Team performers. The Celtics have all the momentum in the world after finishing off the Bucks in 7 games, and Miami is full of confidence after defeating two teams with superstar players rather easily. With the series around the corner, it is time to delve into the ultimate team comparison between the Heat and Celtics as they strive for a trip to the NBA Finals.
Heat Starting Lineup: Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, Bam Adebayo
Celtics Starting Lineup: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Grant Williams, Al Horford
Miami’s starting lineup is experienced and fits very well together. Remember, Kyle Lowry is hurt and will most likely not be available for Game 1. Considering how he looked throughout the 76ers series, it is likely he will not be able to play for the entirety of the series. But Gabe Vincent has been strong in his role, defending his position well and hustling for loose balls. Max Strus has been similar in the sense of taking his game to another level in the playoffs.
Strus is not a star, but he can make open shots and has a high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor. As long as Vincent and Strus make shots, Miami will be a factor. So far, Strus is nailing 35.1% of his three-pointers in the playoffs. The main men are Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, two stars that can have big games on both ends of the floor. Jimmy is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs, typical of a big player who shines brightest in big games. Bam is averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG while playing strong defense as well.
Boston’s starting lineup fit so well together. Marcus Smart has proven to be one of the most underrated players in the NBA over the past few years and has proven to be the well-deserved Defensive Player of the Year. Smart’s defense has been invaluable, and he has set the tone for this Boston Celtics squad. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are the most talented duo in the series because they can each get 30 points in any game.
Their ability to create their own shots will be huge, especially when the team plays fail thanks to the elite defense from Miami. Jayson Tatum in particular is the best player in the series, and even if he can’t defend like Butler, he is an unstoppable scorer when he gets it going. Tatum will need to have a big series, and if he does, Boston could be in a great spot. So far, Tatum is averaging an impressive 28.8 PPG in the playoffs while Brown is chipping in 22.5 PPG in a secondary role.
Finally, Grant Williams and Al Horford are the perfect modern NBA bigs. Both can shoot, rebound, and defend but are also acting as perfect players around Jayson and Jaylen. Horford had a big Game 6 performance and Williams was the star of the show in Game 7, so both bigs are very talented two-way players.
Overall, Boston is deep in every position and each player has had a big game in the previous series. Even without the presence of Robert Williams III, Boston’s starting lineup is slightly more talented than Miami’s who will most likely be without a healthy Kyle Lowry.
Advantage: Boston Celtics
Heat Playoff Rotation: Victor Oladipo, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon
Celtics Playoff Rotation: Payton Pritchard, Derrick White, Nick Stauskas, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams
There is no doubt that Miami’s bench is deeper and more talented, especially assuming Kyle Lowry returns to play some sort of role at some point in the series. Even without Lowry, Miami has elite shooters in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and some fantastic defenders in Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon. The Heat’s role players all know their role and are willing to take backseat roles to make open shots and hustle for loose balls.
Of course, the main man is Tyler Herro. He won Sixth Man of the Year and is without a doubt the most difficult player for the Boston Celtics to defend. There is nobody on the Celtics bench that bring the same type of offensive firepower that Tyler brings, and that could put them in big trouble. If Kyle Lowry returns, he will likely start, which means two-way Gabe Vincent adds another option for Miami’s bench.
Boston’s bench is not very deep, as they mainly relied on three players to come off the bench in Pritchard, White, and Theis. All three are hustle-first players that can make open shots, but none of them are on the level of Tyler Herro. None of them can even shoot like Robinson, Martin, or Herro can or defend like Oladipo. The Celtics still have found a way to make their backups effective against the Bucks.
We still don't know the status of Robert Williams, and because of that, he will be on the bench for this comparison. Overall, the edge has to go to Miami, and that is because of their big names, including Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo. Boston will need to hope that Derrick White has a big series because they will sorely need him to perform in order to keep up with Tyler Herro.
Advantage: Miami Heat
Miami Heat: Erik Spoelstra
Boston Celtics: Ime Udoka
Erik Spoelstra is a fantastic coach, and he has proven that for over a decade. He was the man expected to lead a team full of egos during the “Heatles” era, as he was the leader of the team led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Despite the presence of three All-Stars, Spo did a fantastic job keeping everybody in line and focused on the common goal. It wasn’t easy either, as Miami lost in the 2011 Finals that saw LeBron James take a lot of criticism.
Since then, Spoelstra has helped rebuild the Miami culture by capturing two NBA championships and even making the NBA Finals in 2020. Thanks to the key acquisition of Jimmy Butler and the development of Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, Miami are right in the mix for a championship. Spoelstra is a great defensive mind and also preaches solid philosophies on offense, which include ball movement and players taking matters into their own hands when needed.
Meanwhile, Ime Udoka has blossomed into an excellent head coach. The Boston Celtics ranked first in the Eastern Conference in defense and surely looked like it in the playoffs. Marcus Smart played the best defense of his career, shutting down opposing guards and also leading the pack in hustle and hunger to win. Udoka also helped stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown compete on defense, as both players have taken huge leaps in their play.
Without question, Boston is the best defensive team in the league, and that is mainly due to Udoka’s philosophies. That should automatically give him an edge in the coaching department, except for the fact that Spoelstra has a ton of playoff experience. He already made the NBA Finals five times in his career and has won two championships. Without a doubt, Spoelstra has the edge in experience which basically evens up the series in terms of coaching.
Miami Heat Advantages
The Miami Heat have championship experience, even if they did not win the title in 2020. The team is basically built the same as two years ago because Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are the stars that will lead out a group of talented two-way role players. With Spo at the helm, Miami has been through the trenches and suffered disappointment already, so they will go into the series with hunger and desire.
There is also the factor of revenge, as the Miami Heat are probably still frustrated by their performance in the 2020 Finals. Had they stayed healthy, the team truly believed they could have taken out the Los Angeles Lakers. Losing Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo left Jimmy Butler alone to carry the franchise, but the roster is stacked now with extra role players including Victor Oladipo and Kyle Lowry (if he is healthy to play).
Not to mention, the Heat has the best bench player in the series in Tyler Herro. It depends on how Spoelstra decides to alter his lineups, but it is expected that Herro will be the designated hitter as a 6th man. That means Boston has to deal with Butler and shooters in the starting lineup, and then a 20 PPG scorer, as well. Miami has the experience and bench-scoring to be a major factor in winning the series.
Boston Celtics Advantages
The Celtics just completed a dramatic 3-2 comeback to defeat the reigning NBA champion, Milwaukee Bucks. They have the momentum and teach chemistry at an absolute 100 at the moment, and the stars certainly performed in a critical Game 7 Sunday afternoon. Jayson Tatum is the best player in the series because he has the capabilities to go off for 30 points with ease, especially when teammates such as Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams are making their shots.
Speaking of which, Boston’s role players are motivated and confident at this moment in time. Grant Williams was on fire throughout the series against the Bucks, nailing seven 3-pointers and scoring 27 points. Payton Pritchard can hustle for boards and also made some shots, while Al Horford and Marcus Smart are confident with their play. A team with confident role players is deadly and the Celtics will be tough to slow down if that’s the case early on in the series.
With the best talent in the series and a ton of momentum, Boston has a strategy and they know what to do with it. It will be tough for the Miami Heat to cool off an on-fire Celtics team that just nailed 22 three-pointers against the Bucks. Anything can happen, but the Celtics need to ride the momentum and take the fight to the Heat from the first whistle of Game 1.
This Series Could Determine The NBA Champion
As both teams are exceptional on both ends of the floor and there are certainly a host of NBA superstars that will play, it is likely one of these two teams will win the NBA championship. These two Eastern Conference sides are definitely more talented than the (generally) one-man Dallas Mavericks, and the Golden State Warriors might be too undersized to handle the likes of Al Horford and Bam Adebayo down low who are talented bigs.
Miami and Boston have to be the two best teams in the East and certainly the two best teams remaining in the playoffs. The Golden State Warriors are built for championships, but inconsistencies with Steve Kerr’s health could be a factor early in the series. Therefore, it could be likely that the Heat or Celtics will be one of the teams to lift the trophy at the end of the year. Whoever comes out on top in this series must know that they could possibly be the championship favorites.
Miami Will Likely Come Out On Top In 7 Games Due To Their Experience
This series will be one of the most exciting in these playoffs so far. Both sides have elite defensive players that are not afraid of playing aggressively and sometimes dirty and have scorers that are capable of making shots and leading their teams to victory. A key injury or two could massively swing the series either way, and we have seen Marcus Smart hobble around a few times during the series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Hopefully, both teams are fully healthy and compete against each other at 100% capability.
In the end, through a Game 7 victory, the Boston Celtics will probably have to endure a heartbreaking defeat to the war-ready Miami Heat. The Heat are a great team in big moments, and Jimmy Butler has proven he has what it takes to be the best player on a championship team. The Celtics are most likely exhausted from the 7-game showdown against the Bucks, while the Heat have had an extra few days of rest. That could be a massive reason they take Game 1, and a reason they end the Boston Celtics eventually in 7 games.
Prediction: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics 4-3