The Miami Heat are poised to make a run at the 2020 NBA Finals when they face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. In this preview, we want to give you an overview of everything you need to know and a few things to think and discuss about in the comments.
The Heat beat the Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games while the Celtics escaped the Toronto Raptors in 7 games. With a week rest, Miami will take their 8-1 bubble playoff record against a team they have some history with.
The Heat and Celtics are meeting for the 4th time since 2010. Miami has won the last two series but they were in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, that Eastern Conference Finals went 7 games also.
The only player remaining: Udonis Haslem.
Game 1: Tuesday (9/15), 6:30 PM — ESPN
Game 2: Thursday (9/17), TBD — ESPN
Game 3: Saturday (9/19), 8:30 PM — ESPN
Game 4: Monday, (9/21), TBD
*Game 5: Wednesday (9/23), TBD
*Game 6: Friday (9/25), TBD
*Game 7: Sunday (9/27), TBD
I’m not even going to give you the links to the season recaps of the games between these two teams because they are pointless. The Heat and Celtics played twice pre-bubble and both of those were back to backs for Miami. Justise Winslow played heavy minutes in one of them and Jayson Tatum missed the other. The Celtics won both. Miami won here in the bubble against Boston but they also did it without Jimmy Butler.
Make what you want, but we are looking at two different teams than what played each other earlier this year.
There are a lot of ways you can look at this, but I am looking at it from a perspective of dominance. The key matchup of performance will be Bam Adebayo and Daniel Theis. No, they aren’t going to be posting each other up and going 1v1 very much, but when you look at production, whichever way this swings that team will have the advantage.
Daniel Theis is never the center of attention on the court. Never. But he finds his way to be productive and make a difference through screens, spotting and rebounding. He’s a very good role player. That’s why this matchup is so key. Bam has to dominate Theis when is in there. The Celtics use him as their main and only big, they don’t want to use Enes Kanter (although he would also cause problems for Miami).
If this becomes the Bam Adebayo series, the Heat are in good shape. If Theis is effective in his screen and rolls and being in the right place all the time when the Heat scramble to all the Celtics shooters, then the Celtics will be at an advantage.
Bam needs to dominate.
Key Strategy for the Heat
It will be very interesting to see how Miami matches up with Boston, especially from the starting unit. One strategy I think will be effective is what Nekias Duncan has pointed out: Jimmy Butler on Kemba Walker. Why? The Celtics LOVE the Walker-Theis pick and roll. It typically causes defenses into a frenzy because of Walker’s ability to beat bigs...so a double leaves Theis open at the rim or worse; Tatum or Jaylen Brown open. With Butler on Kemba, it gives the Heat the chance to switch that action.
Why is that important: if Bam can stay in front of Walker, which is not easy, then that action becomes only a 1v1 play—which is going to work at times, but it also eliminates Celtics ball movement, something Brad Stevens doesn’t want. Butler can hold his own on Theis, who is not a back to the basket threat.
If the Heat can neutralize that matchup and as much as they can keep Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson away from switches onto Walker, then the Heat even that playing field and make their defense so much more lethal.
We have to give this to whatever is going on with Gordon Hayward. Hayward exited the first round series agains the Sixers with a several ankle injury. He even left the bubble for recovery. But, he has returned and was spotted shooting before Game 7 a few days ago.
He is expected to return at some point this series and that’s a big deal. With Hayward, the Celtics add another layer of scoring power individually. Hayward is a former All-Star, someone capable of getting to the line and creating their own shot. The Celtics have plenty of guys like that. If he returns, he creates lineup problems that could limit how much the Heat are willing to play Duncan Robinson.
You could see a lot more Andre Iguodala and maybe even Derrick Jones Jr.
There’s so much more to say
We haven’t even talked about the impact that Marcus Smart makes on the game. The Heat will have to avoid action towards him. He and Jaylen Brown will make Jimmy Butler work for everything he gets. And Smart and Butler have a history.
This was just three years ago, the last time they played in a series against each other.
Both of these guys are a lot better now...and a little more mouthy...things could get interesting.
A few more notes...
The Heat have got to find a way to make Duncan Robinson a lot more effective in the minutes he plays. Sure, he sucks the defense out, but if he isn’t scoring threes, then his defensive liability will be exposed even more this series.
What role will Kendrick Nunn play here? He’s small enough to stick with Kemba Walker’s shiftiness, but if Kendrick doesn’t get his shot and groove back then he becomes an offensive liability at times.
The Celtics are beatable. Very beatable. Miami can win by moving the ball, confusing the defense, and by staying true to their principles. This will be a tough series, but all of us here (most of us), believe the Heat has what it takes to get the job done.
Series Prediction from HHH Writers
Surya Fernandez: Heat in 6
Brandon DiPerno: Heat in 6
Matt Pineda: Heat in 7
Diego Quezada: Heat in 6
Jake Lieberman: Heat in 5
Tristan Tucker: Celtics in 6
*ESPN Panel picks: They split their decision with 11 of the 21 experts picking the Heat over the Celtics.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this preview of the Heat and Celtics series. Stay tuned with us for all the previews and recaps of each game.
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