2023 Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics
Third ECF matchup in four seasons. Let's talk about it!
It’s gameday! The Eastern Conference Finals between the No. 8-seeded Miami Heat and the No. 2-seeded Boston Celtics tips off Wednesday, May 17, at 8:30 p.m. inside TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Let’s dive into a quick preview of the series!
Game 1: Wednesday, May 17 in Boston @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Game 2: Friday, May 19 in Boston @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Game 3: Sunday, May 21 in Miami @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Game 4: Tuesday, May 23 in Miami @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Game 5*: Thursday, May 25 in Boston @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Game 6*: Saturday, May 27 in Miami @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Game 7*: Monday, May 29 in Boston @ 8:30 PM ET (TNT)
Every other day, get ready! No additional rest!
What we know about the Heat:
What a story this has been — Miami was minutes away from mere elimination in the play-in, yet here we are for the second straight year, like Jimmy Butler predicted.
After it waned from distance in the Knicks series, the Heat’s 3-point shooting dipped from 45 percent after one round to 36.8 percent — the 5th-best leaguewide — now. Jimmy Butler’s ankle injury made him look human, but he’s still averaged 31.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals on 52.7 percent shooting, 36.1 percent from deep and 79.2 percent from the free-throw line.
When he’s fully healthy, he’s shown continuously he can be the best player on the floor, but that’s a big if. Meaning, Miami will need valiant contributions from its supporting cast of Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Kevin Love, among others. Bam Adebayo was phenomenal against New York and could carry that momentum into a Boston series against a team where he’s seen previous success.
Outside of Butler, Miami doesn’t have many options defensively against Boston’s Tatum and Brown. The Heat could throw Martin, Vincent, Lowry and could even involve Haywood Highsmith, though the latter’s spacing would further clog the lane at the other end of the floor. Regardless, it doesn’t have much to check Tatum or Brown, as opposed to the inverse with Butler. That will be important to monitor as the series goes on.
What we know about the Celtics:
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Head coach Joe Mazzulla opted to use a two-big lineup of Horford-Williams against former Heat forward PJ Tucker and Joel Embiid in Game 6. And man did it work to perfection. When both were on the floor in Game 6, it finished a plus-nine in 19 minutes while going a plus-13 in 20 minutes in Game 7 Sunday. Collectively, those two-big lineups have gone a plus-21 in 96 minutes — equating to a plus-10.1 NET Rating, including a plus-23.2 NET with its starting five in 47 combined minutes (six games).
In short, I don’t see Mazzulla shifting away from that starting five until the Heat give him a good reason to. Boston will likely play Kevin Love or Caleb Martin similar to how they did Tucker stationed at the corner — deploying Horford on Bam while using Williams as a weakside roamer off Love/Martin, though both are used differently than Tucker was.
The Celtics are among the league’s most efficient offenses, placing second in offensive rating while posting league bests in effective field goal percentage and true-shooting percentage. The shooting variance plus effort defensively hasn’t always made things easy, but they’ve clearly overcame any slight adversity. This will be the Heat’s toughest challenge to date.
Boston has the clear personnel advantage, but Miami does have the coaching advantage with Erik Spoelstra. That itself makes series competitive, but then you add Butler and a surging Adebayo to this equation and it becomes that much more intriguing. Though I still don’t think Miami has enough offensive firepower in the end. The Celtics have a championship pedigree, two elite wings who make up arguably the league’s best duo, very good defensive makeup at each position, depth and simply more reliable options. Prediction: Celtics in 6
Thank u Sun Man for the pull up.I love our team and lost sight of the real deal my friend.
I was wrong.hate myself for that.just my own lil pipe dream.Actually we beat Milwaukee because of injury to Greek probably.