Which team is a better matchup for the Heat: Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers?
Let's look at Miami's two possible opponents ahead of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season — and for the third time in four seasons — Friday with their 96-92 Game 6 win over the New York Knicks.
As a result, they will face either the No. 2-seeded Boston Celtics or the No. 3-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, which won’t be determined until Sunday afternoon.
That begs the question: Who would be the most ideal matchup for the Heat in a seven-game series? Let’s talk about it!
Boston Celtics overview:
Miami has the clear coaching advantage, but the Boston Celtics have two elite wings in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum — arguably the most dynamic duo in basketball — who spearheads one of the league’s best offenses.
The Celtics were second in offensive rating (117.3) while leading in rebounding rate. They also placed in the top-5 in both true-shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage while ranking No. 7 in turnover rate.
Despite a few subpar playoff performances, Boston’s still been the second-most efficient offense this postseason — posting 117.9 points per 100 possessions — with the league’s highest eFG% and TS%.
A large part of that is due to the effective, albeit volatile “Mazzulla Ball” — an offense heavily reliant on the 3-point shot. They’re going to take 3s — lots of them! — and will make them at a reasonable clip; for the postseason, they lead the NBA in 3-point percentage (39.1), more than one percentage point higher than the next-highest team (Nuggets — 37.9), scoring nearly 40 percent of their points from deep.
Boston has a set eight-man rotation, but shifted its starting lineup in Game 6. Head coach Joe Mazzulla inserted Robert Williams into the starting five for Derrick White. It gave Boston a bigger Al Horford-Williams frontcourt — similar to what Ime Udoka deployed last season — against former Heat legend PJ Tucker and Joel Embiid.
It finished a plus-nine in 19 minutes, while the Smart-Brown-Tatum-Horford-Williams combination finished a plus-12 (36.1 NET) in 15 minutes.
Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon heads the Boston bench, tallying 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 48.4 percent shooting, including 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. In the playoffs, Brogdon has put up similar numbers in a bigger sample, becoming a slightly more potent scorer on similar efficiency.
After ending the season on a dire note, the Heat defense has been the No. 6 best unit these playoffs (min. 5 games played). The Celtics’ offense is more than capable of giving Miami fits, though the Heat offense can give Boston the same type of fits if shots are falling.
Miami also wants revenge from last year, right? That could be extra motivation.
Philadelphia 76ers overview:
While the Sixers have more toughness, and roster the league’s MVP in Joel Embiid, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding James Harden and Doc Rivers.
As we’ve seen through these first two series, the Sixers revolve as Harden goes; when he’s purposeful and aggressive, it typically fashions favorable results for Philly. When he’s not, then it might be a long(er) night. In wins, he’s averaging 24.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 8.6 assists on 46.9/48.3/86.2 shooting splits; in losses, his numbers crater to 13.7 points on 20.5/10.5/87.5 shooting splits. Pretty drastic, huh?
While he’s still above average, Rivers has blown multiple playoff leads (and might blow another 3-2 series lead if they lose Sunday) and has a tendency to get out-coached in a playoff series. He’s no Erik Spoelstra. Nobody is.
Though the Sixers have more mental fortitude — thanks to the likes of Tucker — than they’ve typically possessed in the Joel Embiid-era. That’s shown in Games 4 and 5 of this Celtics-Sixers series.
In a seven-game series against Miami, could that hold up? There’s always the possibility. The Sixers were the NBA’s most efficient 3-point shooting team during the regular season and are currently T-4 among playoff teams in 3-point percentage at 37.5 percent. They have multiple capable 3-point threats — Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, Harden, Tucker, etc — and were No. 3 in offense in the regular season.
They also sported the NBA’s No. 8 in defense but were a considerably worse rebounding team (19th in TRB%) and more sloppy (No. 15 in TOV%) with the rock. That better favors Miami.
The Sixers operate at a much slower pace than Boston, which favors how Miami wants to play as well. They’ll also allow a steady diet of 3-pointers (like Boston). Again, it will come down to if Miami can make shots or not.
Verdict: Sixers, but both will obviously be different challenges in different ways. Let the games begin!
Woke up late and see its Boston we'll be facing in ecf. Sad for Joel they failed by failing to get gm6. See you all game 1.
prediction tatum will have at least 2 bad games vs heat ditto brown.philly coached by doc rivers and with chokers embid harden are not heat culture.