Boston Celtics (3) v Miami Heat (5)
I don’t think it would be unfair to say that not many people would of predicted this would be the final match up in the Eastern Conference. However, at the end of the day, these two teams have been the best and I am glad that they are here. This should be a fantastic match up between two excellent teams. I can’t imagine this taking any less than 7 games. I don’t know how to seperate these two, but it’s my job to try!
The first thing that comes mind is the rest factor. Both Miami and Boston swept their first round series. Last round, Miami finished in 5, but it took Boston a long and hard fought 7 game series against the Raptors. It’s only an extra two games, but it adds up to a lot of extra minutes. Not only that, but the Celtics starters average more minutes than Miami does. So, the fresher legs would be Miami. Unless you buy into “rest vs rust”, you have to give this advantage to the Heat. Both teams are fairly young, so I don’t think it will matter a lot, but either way, in a long series, look to the extra rest to be nothing but an advantage for the Heat.
Speaking of freshness, we will likely see the return of Gordon Hayward in this series. The question is when? He isn’t been cleared for Game 1, but it has been said he will return at some stage soon. Hayward is an excellent player for Boston, and adds an extra 18 points a game to their offense. Not to mention the fact that he is a pretty solid defender, so he can help out on both ends of the court. The only concern is how well his ankle holds up, but I can’t see Hayward coming back being a negative in anyway. That’s a point to Boston.
The star studded match up between Butler and Tatum should be a great watch. Tatum continues to rise toward any challenge that comes at him and Butler has never been one to back down. They both have playoff experience and they are both considered the go to guy of their team. Whoever comes out on top in this matchup will give their team a huge boost. They are both excellent players, Tatum has the advantage offensively, but the defensive advantage goes to Butler. It’s hard to say who will come out on top. My money is on Jimmy Butler, but I’m not confident. The more likely scenario is they just cancel each other out. Let’s call this a draw.
The point guard battle between Dragic and Walker is also worth keeping an eye on. Both have struggled in recent games and I am expecting a strong bounce back from both of them. Kemba really struggled to get things going against Toronto, but they were focused on taking him out of the game. I’m not sure what happened with Dragic, it just looked like he lost his aggression and was happy to settle for jumpers. I don’t think Miami will double Kemba, they have a lot of confidence in their individual defense. Kemba will utilise the pick and roll to try and get a switch on a more favourable matchup, but their isn’t really one in this series. Dragic will need to find his aggression and his shot. It will be available for him, Boston have to respect everyone on this court, so their will be no doubt teams. Like I said, I’m expecting them both to bounce back, but I think Walker will bounce back stronger. Advantage Boston.
I was a little bit guilty of sleeping on Daniel Theis heading into the last series. I thought Gasol would make short work of him. I was so wrong, Theis dominated that series. Not on the box score, but there is no denying the impact he had in that series. He will draw the match up against Miami’s All Star centre, Bam Adebayo. I’m super excited for this match up and I am a fan of both of them. They are both great defenders, but Bam is more of an offensive threat. Theis will have to honour Bam at absolutely every position. He will have his work cut out for him and I am sure he will step up to the task. At the end of the day though, Bam is an All Star and I’m sure he will find a way to get his. That’s another point for Miami.
Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart are each looking like the new Steph Curry. They have both been on fire from long range. Surely it will have to cool off eventually. Right? Who goes cold first? Doesn’t really matter though, Smart is the better player out of these two. His defensive contributions are obviously crucial to the success of the Celtics. Any 3 point scoring from him is just gravy. Point to Boston.
Speaking of shooting the long ball, Miami have continued to be deadly from outside. Boston not so much. Boston also managed to take away the three point shooting from the Raptors with some excellent defense. That being said though, Toronto couldn’t even hit the open ones. I’m certain Boston will continue their smothering defense, but I’m also certain that Miami will cash in their open shots. I usually bet on defense, but if Miami can keep shooting at this accuracy (and I believe they can) it’s hard to bet against them. One point to Miami.
Jaylen Brown is a strong number two option for Boston and he had some big games against Toronto. He also had some no shows. Regardless, he is a very strong number two option for the Celtics. Heck, some nights he is even the number one option. I don’t know who you would say is the number two option for Miami. It seems to vary from game to game. Is that strength or a weakness? I don’t know. Miami can get points from anyone though. Boston have the more star studded line up, but I think Miami have the more consistent depth. Another tie? I think so.
If you’ve been keeping score, that’s 3 points each and 2 ties. We are right back to where we have started. I really don’t know! I suspect if I take the time to go through and break down absolutely every statistic and play, I’d end up in a similar spot.
I’m almost certain this series will go to 7 games. I imagine most of them will be under the points line. I can’t imagine any blowouts, but I did say that last series and look at some of those games! It’s really hard to pick, both of these teams are great and both of them are likeable. I’m just cheering for a good series. I have to make a pick though, so I’m going to go with my guy, Jimmy G Buckets. Heat in 7!