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NBA Playoffs 2024: Celtics Vs. Heat Preview And Prediction

The Celtics and Heat are set to face off in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

For the third straight year the Celtics and Heat are set to face off in the playoffs. This time it’s in the first round of the playoffs instead of the Eastern Conference finals. Both series went to seven games with the Heat winning last year to complete their incredible finals run as an eight seed and the Celtics winning in 2022. The Celtics are coming off a dominant season and are title favorites. They are also -3000 favorites on DraftKings to win this series. While the Heat didn’t have a great regular season, they are always a dangerous team in the playoffs even if the odds are against them. Let’s dive into this matchup and ultimately predict who will win.

NBA Playoffs 2024: Celtics Vs. Heat Preview And Prediction

How Will The Heat Fare Without Butler?

Jimmy Butler suffered a sprained MCL in the Play-In game vs the 76ers. Although he amazingly finished the game this injury will in all likelihood keep him out for the entirety of the Celtics series. Of course, this is a massive loss for the Heat, and matching the Celtics offensive firepower will be even more of a challenge. Especially when considering Butler is Miami’s only elite playoff shot creator and the team already struggled offensively. The Celtics have the top-ranked offense in the league while Miami’s with Butler was just 21st. This disparity might be impossible to overcome for the Heat. Furthermore, the Celtics have a top-three defense which adds another challenge for Miami’s injured offense.

Who Else Will Step Up?

In 21 games without Butler the Heat had a 13-9 record in those games Bam Adebayo averaged 22 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 4.8 apg. The Heat will need similar production if not more from Bam to stand a chance against Boston. Bam will also be depended on to set the tone defensively for the Heat. Additionally, the play of Tyler Herro and Terry Rozier will be crucial for the Heat without Butler. Herro has provided the Heat with consistent perimeter scoring all season long; he’s a safe bet to continue this production in the playoffs. However, Rozier hasn’t found his groove since being traded to the Heat and is currently dealing with a neck injury. An injury which will keep him out for at least the first two games of the series which will be a significant blow to an already depleted Miami offense. If Rozier returns his offensive production could make or break the series for the Heat.

In year’s past the Heat have also gotten incredible playoff production out of role players. Who will step up between Duncan Robinson, Jaime Jaquez, Caleb Martin, and Nikola Jovic is also something to look out for. Last year in the conference finals the Heat shot an incredible 43% from three while the Celtics shot just 30% from beyond the arc. This three-point disparity will have to be replicated for Miami to stand a chance. However, this feels unlikely considering the Celtics improved shooting and that these numbers were already outliers last year. While Miami’s offense is a question, their elite playoff defense will make this a competitive and gritty series. Head coach Erik Spoelstra gives the Heat an advantage and he will certainly have some interesting tricks up his sleeve.

The Porzingis Effect

On the Celtics side of things, the addition of Kristaps Porzingis has been a complete game-changer. This year the Celtics went 3-0 in regular-season games against the Heat. In all of these games, Porzingis made a big difference with his interior scoring and rim protection. The new dimension he adds makes the Celtics much harder to game plan against on both ends of the court. In previous years the Heat would capitalize on the Celtics’ offensive cold streaks with Porzingis that’s harder because they have a consistent inside scorer to bail them out. Look for the Celtics to utilize Porzingis even more in the playoffs, especially in clutch time where he has been incredibly efficient.

What Will Jaylen Brown’s Impact Be?

Jaylen Brown has often struggled against the Heat, especially their zone. Last year Brown averaged 19 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.4 apg, and 3.5 turnovers per game. Turnovers were Brown’s biggest struggle which included eight turnovers in a do-or-die game seven. The Heat famously forced Brown to go left and forced him into more playmaking decisions. However, this year Brown has made significant improvements as a ball handler, finisher, and playmaker. The Celtics will need Brown to show these improvements against a Heat defense that always challenges him.

If Brown is unable to do so the Celtics will need Jayson Tatum to play at a superstar level. Additionally, Derrick White and Jrue Holiday will be vital as steady ball handlers and smart decision-makers. White was brilliant in his two previous series against the Heat looking for his impact to increase since he’s gotten a bigger role. Holiday’s steady playmaking, ball handling, and incredible experience will provide a stabilizing presence for Boston’s offense. The Celtics didn’t have this type of stability in the backcourt last year. The two guards will also have a crucial role in limiting Miami’s perimeter production. Another key to the series for the Celtics will be closing games. They can’t over-settle for threes down the stretch and need to get everyone involved offensively. Tatum must improve his clutch time efficiency from the regular season. However, this should all be easier in a series where you have a clear offensive advantage.

The Last Word

Ultimately the Celtics talent and elite offense will overwhelm the Heat, especially without Butler. The Heat are still a great playoff team and their suffocating defense will still provide a challenge for the Celtics. Expect a lot of close gritty games. However, the Celtics’ unmatched talent and off-season additions push them over the edge. The Heat will be able to win a game based on their gritty defense and potential knockdown shooting from role players. However, they won’t be able to consistently match the Celtics’ offensive firepower or shot creation. This is one of the most talented offenses we’ve ever seen and they will take care of business against an injured Heat squad.

Final Prediction: Celtics in 5


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