Series Preview, Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat

After overcoming a 3-2 deficit in their 2nd round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the 2nd straight year. Boston is set to take on a very familiar foe, the Miami Heat. After losing to the Heat 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020, the Celtics got their revenge last season, eliminating Miami in 7 games to advance to the NBA Finals. Now, we get the rubber match.

Despite a 44-38 regular season record and a loss in the 1st round of the play-in tournament, the Heat have found themselves four wins away from another NBA Finals berth. This will be Miami's toughest test yet after a 4-1 victory over the #1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the 1st round and a 4-2 triumph over the Knicks in the East Semis. Let's take a closer look at the Heat.
Where Miami Excels
The Heat found success throughout the entirety of the regular season on the back of their defense. Bam Adebayo is one of the most versatile defenders in the league and has proven to be a very solid rim protector for Miami over the years. Their defense hasn't been quite as strong in the postseason, but it hasn't caused the Heat much trouble, mostly because of the unbelievable play of Jimmy Butler.

Jimmy came out like a man possessed in the opening round against Milwaukee and only continued his stellar play against the Knicks. Through 2 rounds, Butler is leading all remaining players in points per game at 31.1, while also shooting 52.7% from the field. If Miami wants a chance in this series, Jimmy will have to be extraordinary.

Another reason for the Heat making it this far has been their improvement from behind the arc. After they shot the long ball at just 34.4% in the regular season, they've raised that number to 36.8% in the playoffs, which includes making 1.4 more per game. With guys like Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, and Gabe Vincent, the Heat will look to let it fly from distance at any time.
Where Miami Struggles
There are certainly a few flaws in every team at this point in the season, but some of the problems for Miami are a bit alarming. The first one has to be their lack of depth. With Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo both getting injured in the opening round of the 2023 playoffs, Miami is having to play some players that probably wouldn't be playing otherwise. These role players have done their jobs thusfar, but the Celtics will offer them a test unlike any that they've seen up to this point.

Another issue for the Heat is their lack of size. The size issue for Miami is especially evident on the perimeter, with guys like Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry both being a little shorter, while Duncan Robinson is a mismatch waiting to happen. If the Heat find themselves in a position where Vincent, Robinson, or Lowry are matched up against Tatum or Brown, it could get really difficult for them to get stops. The Verdict
Miami is a proven team with veteran leadership and a superstar in the middle of it all. With Erik Spoelstra as the mastermind of the operation, the Heat will absolutely come to play and bring a serious challenge to the Celtics. With that being said, I just don't think they can keep up.

If Boston starts with Smart/JB/JT/Al/Rob and Miami goes with their usual lineup, there are mismatches that the Celtics can seriously exploit. With Adebayo and Love each having to guard a big man and Butler most likely on Tatum, that means either Strus or Vincent will have to guard Jaylen Brown. That is a huge mismatch. Not to mention the bench, where Boston has Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, and Grant Williams to come in and give good contributions.

I have a lot of respect for the Heat, to make it to the Conference Finals as an 8 seed is quite an accomplishment, but I think their Cinderella run stops here. In the end, Tatum and Brown are too much for Miami to handle along with all of the Celtics' terrific role players. Let's go back to the NBA Finals.
Prediction: Celtics in 6