It’s always fun to read the NBA Playoff series predictions and analysis whenever the Miami Heat are involved and now that they’re set to face off against the Boston Celtics it seems that the No. 1 seeded team in the East has no chance.
Of course it’s no surprise that the NBA media will fixate on the large market teams throughout the season like the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, and the Celtics. With Boston’s larger presence on the national TV schedule than Miami, their impressive 35-game stretch to close the regular season was a major storyline to focus on while the Heat quietly and steadily went about their business, ahem, locking up the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Across social media and sports sites — a personal favorite is CBS Sports’ graphic showing all eight writers in solidarity — the general consensus is that the Heat are a good team but the Celtics are just, well, better. Oddsmakers are in agreement, Miami are favored to win Game 1 but not much else. DraftKings has the Celtics at -185 to win the series and the Heat at +155, while the spread for Game 1 sits at +1.5 for Boston and -1.5 for Miami.
Never mind that Luka Doncic’s otherworldly Game 7 performance for the Dallas Mavericks out West only now puts him in the same conversation with Miami’s Jimmy Butler for the best player so far in the playoffs. The same Butler who is averaging 28.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 52.5% from the field and has raised his 3-point shooting average to 36.4%.
Miami also features the freshly-crowned Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro who is fully capable of exploding in any game to be a difference-maker alongside Butler. Adebayo’s role across the first two rounds has been more of a complimentary player in conjunction with his elite defense, but after facing off against Joel Embiid he might be more inclined to flex his scoring muscles — especially if Robert Williams III continues to be hobbled.
I could go on and on about Miami’s other X-factors and their superior depth, or how their coaching staff has the experience and the edge over Boston, but the No. 1 seed’s record speaks for itself. Mind you, I can’t see the future and no one can predict every series with absolute certainty but let’s not gloss over the fact that the Heat are more rested, which will help early in the series throwing full court waves of defensive pressure, and they hold homecourt advantage, which will be crucial now and later in what promises to be a long hard-fought series.
Let’s not forget, the Heat’s core led by Butler, Adebayo and Herro dispatched the Celtics’ core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. (For more on the debunked “Heat bubble” narrative, check out Diego’s excellent piece here.) Both teams have bolstered their depth since then, while younger players have continued to develop, but has Boston really improved leaps and bounds over their conference rival?
Do the Heat even need more locker room material, if they ever did in the first place? They’ve been doubted all along, since Butler’s arrival really. It seems the entire team, filled with undrafted players (two of which now start in the backcourt), castaways, and the like would prefer to be the underdogs anyway. It suits their DNA just fine and across the board players like Butler, PJ Tucker, Victor Oladipo, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Herro, and the rest simply play better with a chip on their shoulder and with something to prove.
Tuesday night can’t come soon enough to start finding out what both teams are made of. The Heat will happily take their chances.