The Eastern Conference Finals matchup for this year may seem like a paradox – it’s a repeat of last year, but also a surprise. The Miami Heat shouldn’t have made it this far, losing to the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the play-in tournament just a month ago and ending their season before the playoffs even started. However, they defeated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks in the playoffs, going 8-2. On the other hand, the Boston Celtics had a great regular season, finishing 57-25 with the second-best record in the NBA. However, they struggled in the first round against the underdog Atlanta Hawks and nearly lost to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Despite these differences, this will be the third time in the past five seasons that the Heat and Celtics have met in the conference finals. Both teams have many stars, talent, depth, and versatility, but the Celtics are the favorites. However, the Heat have proven to be formidable opponents, especially with Jimmy Butler leading the way. Butler’s injury may be a concern for the Heat, but his playoff numbers since joining Miami in 2019 speak for themselves.
One of the biggest advantages the Celtics have is their coaching, which is where Erik Spoelstra’s experience may come in handy. Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA, having coached 172 games in the playoffs, while Joe Mazura, the Celtics’ coach, has only coached 13.
The Heat have also been impressive from beyond the arc, practicing 45% of deep looks against the Bucks and 38.2% against the Knicks. However, during the regular season, they made just 34.8% of their 3s. Which Heat team will show up in the conference finals? That remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the Celtics have a talent advantage that may be hard to overcome, even with the Heat’s hot shooting and Butler’s phenomenal performance. The pick here is Celtics in five.