Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Spread the love

The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are set to square off in the Eastern Conference Finals. This rematch of the 2019-20 ECF features two of the most influential franchises in the history of the NBA. These two teams match up well on paper and this series has the potential to be a memorable one.

Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Frontcourt

Miami Heat

Miami is a relatively small team. Even center Bam Adebayo is only 6’9”. Luckily for the Heat, Adebayo plays much larger than his height. The rest of his frontcourt running mates make up for the lack of traditional size with their efforts on the defensive end. PJ Tucker is the embodiment of this. The undersized power forward helped the Milwaukee Bucks win it all last year and he hopes to repeat that task in South Beach this summer. Tucker won’t do much offensively, averaging only 8.8 points per game in the playoffs, but he’ll be asked to make life difficult for the Celtics’ talented forwards. 

Of course, the Heat are led in the frontcourt by Jimmy Butler. Butler has been fantastic again in this postseason, putting up averages of 28.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. Butler is also putting up defensive numbers, averaging 2.1 steals and just under one block per game. Butler’s defense might be even more important than his offense in this series. He’ll be tasked with guarding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown throughout the matchup. The grueling matchup won’t deter Butler, who can keep in front of the league’s best. 

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have one of the most dynamic frontcourts in the NBA. Tatum rightfully gets the bulk of attention and credit but fans that have watched Boston this year know that there is much more to the equation. Al Horford’s recent renaissance has been a huge factor in this playoff run. His crucial play in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals helped push the team to level the series. Speaking of career nights, Grant Williams’ 27-point barrage in game seven caught the basketball world by storm. Miami won’t be surprised by his shooting prowess and I doubt they will give up as many quality looks, but Williams has solidified himself as a quality option while Robert Williams battles back from injury. If the injured center is able to return, Boston adds another DPOY-caliber defender to their rotation.

None of that is meant to belittle the importance of Tatum to this team. The Celtics will go as he goes. From buzzer-beaters to outgunning former-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tatum has built on his success in the first round against the Nets and appears to be ready for the next level of playoff excellence. 

Advantage: Boston Celtics

Embed from Getty Images

Backcourt

Miami Heat

Kyle Lowry will again be out to start this series. While Miami would love to have the all-start point guard, they have fared well without him. Much of this can be credited to the Heat’s great depth in the backcourt. Miami might have the deepest guard rotation in the league and certainly the deeper rotation in this matchup. Gabe Vincent has played well in Lowry’s starting role and Max Strus is shooting 41% from beyond the arc. Tyler Herro has been the lead guard off of the bench, but Victor Oladipo has shown flashes of his once All-Star self in a limited role. Duncan Robinson isn’t seeing a lot of playing time, but he is shooting 47.8% from three. 

Boston Celtics

The Celtics will look to DPOY Marcus Smart to contain the Heat’s perimeter attack. The offensive load will be carried by Brown. Brown led Boston in scoring in two games during the last round. If the Celtics are going to advance to the finals, Brown’s offensive prowess will be needed. Miami’s tough defense will give Tatum trouble at times. If Brown can carry the team through these moments, Boston will be in great shape. 

Advantage: Miami Heat

Coaching and Intangibles

One of these teams is coached by a former college basketball player who spent years learning from one of the best coaches in NBA history. This coach has also worked with Team USA and has earned the respect of his players.

Which team? Well, both. Apologies for the run-around, but this seems to be the best way to make the following point. Both of these head coaches are talented, intelligent signal callers backed by the pedigree and resources of one of the greatest franchises in league history. With two resumes that are so similar, I have to stick with the one key difference. Erik Spoelstra has the championship experience to get the nod in this otherwise equal department. 

Advantage: Miami Heat 

Final Prediction

While some may be disappointed to see an eastern conference final without the likes of the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers, the matchup that we have could be one of the most entertaining in recent history. The battle between rising superstar Tatum and playoff-hero Butler could be one for the ages. The strengths of these teams match up well and this has all the makings of a hard-fought, defensive-minded, ‘old-school’ playoff series. One that is reminiscent of the late-80s Celtics or the late 90’ Heat. No matter who wins, we should get at least six games of excellent basketball. Let’s hope we get seven. 

Final Prediction: Heat in six

Main Photo
Embed from Getty Images