CELTICS VS HEAT PREVIEW
Well oh well. We talk about parity in sports, but in basketball, where the best team usually wins, all that really serves as is a reminder that nothing ever changes. It’s always showtime in LaLa, Trader Danny’s always gonna trade, and Riles is always gonna Riles. So in the bubble where it seems to be pushing everyone to their mental limits, it’s only natural that most of the same old culprits are reverting to their old history.
Today, we are taking a look at two of those three, the Heat and Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
How did we get here?
The Celtics took out the defending champs in a thrilling 7-game series that few saw coming after the Celtics nearly went up 3-0, if not for a game-winning 3 by OG Anunoby on a defensive breakdown by Daniel Theis. Then when the world thought that was their swan song, Kyle Lowry showed his heart to almost tilt the series their way and keep the Raptors repeat hopes alive. Too bad the Celtics young wings proved to be too much for them.
Meanwhile, the Heat made easy work of the Bucks and likely 2-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in 5 games after the reigning MVP went down in Game 4 with a serious ankle injury. The series really wasn’t any closer before the injury than it was after the injury. Also, while he has been celebrated for his hard work and heart these past couple years, even he knows next year he’ll have “some explaining to do” (Ricky Ricardo voice) on the court. The Heat simply looked like a better version of the Bucks with more heart and better pieces.
Head to Head Match-ups
The C’s took both games this season, as they got 20-plus-point performances from Jaylen Brown. Both games were really never in doubt and they beat the Heat in both modes: team mode and Jimmy Buckets mode.
Key Head To Head Matchups
Jimmy Butler vs. Jayson Tatum
Arguably the best player on the Celtics, Jayson Tatum, has his work cut out for him as he does every year in the playoffs with Jimmy Butler, arguably the best player in the East. Tatum has been putting up superstar numbers and has even Kemba Walker acknowledging his time is coming. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler is letting telling people in his best DMX impression that he is right here and has been here. Watching these two potentially go head to head in crunch time might be special. Jayson has fallen to LeBron James and Giannis in the past two years, and there would be no shame in losing to Jimmy Buckets this year. However, no one wants to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride.
Can he start rewriting the script this year?
Bam Adebayo vs. Daniel Theis/Robert Williams
Both of these men have somewhat varied skillsets, although on different levels. Don’t let the fact that this is a key match-up fool you, none of the Celtics big men are on Bam Adebayo’s level. He was an All-star for a reason and he showed Giannis-like versatility in the last round. However, for the Heat to win this series, they need him to bring the heat.
I hope Udonis Haslem is close by.
Coaching Edge – Erik Spoelstra
Brad Stevens is maybe the best X-and-O’s coach in the league. If two YMCA league teams were playing, I would want him every time. However, I question his real-time coaching, especially while calling plays for coaching. This is where Erik Spoelstra has excelled. Spoelstra has coached some of the game’s best talent and done so at a high level. I have no doubt that Brad Stevens can hold his own on the clipboard, but when things get tight is when I know that Erik Spoelstra has come through time and time again; with Dwyane Wade and a certain king from Ohio…
Key Players to Watch
Sometimes called Marcus Dumb, it is up to the heart and soul of the Celtics to help contain Jimmy Butler. If he can’t even spend an effective 20 minutes a night on Butler, this series will tilt in the Heats favor.
Although he has been hailed as the anti-Kyrie, Kemba Walker doesn’t seem have been as big in clutch moments as we would’ve hoped. If Hayward can’t go, the Celtics need him to show up against Jimmy Butler down the stretch.
Going against his former team, Crowder must show up big defensively. If he can use his strength to force Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown into a couple bad shooting nights, then the Heat will have a chance.
Coming off the bench for a short period of time, Goran must play big in the series. He’s not close to the Kemba or on his level, but he needs to make the gritty offensive plays that he’s known for, or they’re going to harass Jimmy Butler into a long series.
Who Controls the Glass
Everyone knows that the Celtics are not a great rebounding team, and this series hinges on the Heat negating the Celtics length by being more active on the glass. The Celtics are talented enough to win without winning the rebounding battle, but the Heat need to crash the glass. Or it’ll be a short series.
The Celtics aren’t just the taller team, but they are the longer team as well. They’re not necessarily slow either and that’s the problem. The Heat need key contributions from the shooters to negate that length like they did against the Bucks, and to free up Jimmy Butler.
Return of Gordon Hayward
The Celtics haven’t missed a beat in Gordon Hayward‘s absence, starting the playoffs 6-0. The stats may not back it up, but in my opinion, he seems to be their most trustworthy player in crunch-time. His presence may be the difference if there are any close games close games.
Jaylen and Jayson Attacking The Rim
As often is the case with young players, they struggle going to the rim in traffic. Jayson and Jaylen are no exception in crunch time. Against this tough Miami defense, it will be on them to hold on to the ball.
Shooting vs Length
The Heat are at a size disadvantage against the Celtics and it’s not the slow kind either. The Heat will need to cut as hard as they did against the Bucks to keep the C’s defense honest and free up their shooters to take the Splash Bro’s-esque 3-pointers.
Celtics in the Clutch
The Celtics sometimes get too cute (see going zone against Toronto and giving up the game-winning 3), and can not afford to do so in crunch time against the Heat. They need to win at least 1 close game to win the series.
Can Bam Play Big?
In his first all-star season, Bam is working on establishing himself as a top- 5 center in the league. As a jack-of-all-trades, he needs to make the Celtics big men feel him or the Celtics length will win out.
Prediction – Heat
This is the fourth match-up between the Heat and the Celtics. We all remember Dwayne Wade borrowing Gilbert Arenas’ hibachi and talking to his hand in the Heat’s loss in 2010. Likewise, we remember them coming back and whitewashing the Celtics in the lockout shortened 2011. We remember the LeBron James putting the weight of the world on his shoulders and silencing the Boston crowd in Game 6. We know the Celtics probably have more talent and more length, but I go with the simple adage in sports. If both teams are close in talent and one has a superstar, that team usually wins.
‘Jimmy Buckets in 7.