After knocking off the top two seeds. the five-seed Miami Heat and the three-seed Boston Celtics will go to war to determine who deserves the right to play in the NBA Finals.
The Heat have not reached the finals since 2014 during the days of the “Big Three” in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Six years later and still led by head coach Erik Spoelstra, Miami brings a new philosophy to the forefront, which is centered around young talent and depth that culminate in a cohesive unit.
Jimmy Butler has been the star for Miami, leading the team in points per game with 21.8. He’s been a leader no one saw coming and has made his veteran teammates better. He’s also turned his young teammates into cold-blooded killers from beyond the arc.
Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson have been breakout stars throughout the season and it has carried into the playoffs. Both are averaging over 10 points per game this postseason and shooting over 39% from 3-point.
You cannot forget the glue of this team in Bam Adebayo. One of the most dominant players in the paint this season, the forward continues to average a double-double and is there to clean up the offensive boards for Miami to create second-chance opportunities. He will need to continue to be relentless in the trenches and not let a much-smaller Boston team outhustle him.
Moving over to the Celtics, who over the last three seasons, have played with a will that has become admirable. Boston was able to eliminate the Toronto Raptors after being pushed to a Game 7. Forward Jayson Tatum has developed into a top-10 talent in the league, averaging over 25 PPG this postseason, and floor general Kemba Walker has become the leader Kyrie Irving wasn’t.
However, it’s not these two who have brought this team to the conference finals. It’s been defensive wizard Marcus Smart who has put the team on his shoulders defensively and will need to step it up even further against Butler. Smart makes key defensive plays possession after possession and does whatever it takes to make sure the ball is back in his team’s hands. He has been my personal favorite to watch in these playoffs, and the Butler vs. Smart matchup will be must-watch.
Jaylen Brown has grown into a much-better than his rookie days and will need to keep his production up to match the sharpshooting of Miami.
A huge chunk of Boston’s hopes come in the form of big man Daniel Theis, who will have to guard Adebayo. Theis will have to outwork the strong big man on the boards in order to keep the ball out of Miami’s hands for as long as possible. However, Theis has been averaging nearly four fouls a game this postseason, which could lead to Adebayo continuing to attack him and draw fouls.
This series is going seven games. There is too much talent on both ends for this series to end any earlier. The coaching chess match between Spoelstra and Brad Stevens is the best matchup in this series and neither of these men are going to let down their players. It will all come down to who displays the most heart when adversity hits — advantage Boston.
Prediction: Celtics in 7