By: Emily Musella
Celtics strike first in W over Heat
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat tip-off the Eastern Conference Finals tonight. The Celtics found themselves in a Game 7 shootout against the Raptors to punch their ticket to tonight’s game. Meanwhile, the Heat dominated the Bucks with a surprising 4-1 series victory. Can the Celtics strike first, or will Miami bring the heat? You know what time it is, the breakdown shakedown!
Odds: BOS -1.5, MIA +1.5
Over/Under: Over 210
Tip-off: September 15th, 6:30 p.m. EST, HP Field House
In their last meeting back in early August, the Celtics fell to the Heat 112-106 without star player Jimmy Butler. Take it back even further prior to the NBA bubble, the Celtics won both matchups by 8 points or more, and Butler was in both of those matchups. Head Coach Brad Stevens is familiar with his opponent and knows where to attack when needed as he did prior to the bubble.
Offensively, the big-three of Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown need to be efficient and physical right out the gate. Walker struggled in his last two games against the Raptors, and against the Heat he averaged 15 ppg this season. Can’t forget about offensive and defensive playmaker Marcus Smart. The man controlled the Raptors series and now he is ready to make his mark against the Heat. Over the past three matchups against the Heat this season, the Celtics average nearly 45% from the FG line and nearly 36% from the 3pt range.
Defensively, the Celtics will need to shut down the 3pt drill game that the Heat have mastered this postseason. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Jae Crowder will be the main targets for the C’s defense to take down. In the postseason, the Heat are shooting 38% from the 3pt range. This is another physical and fast-paced opponent so cutting down on fouls will be pivotal. Look for Marcus Smart to be on Goran Dragic for a majority of the night, a key matchup. Forcing Adebayo to make tough undesired shots and Butler to carry the team could aid the Celtics in a Game 1 victory.
The Heat face a familiar foe in the Eastern Conference Finals as they begin their series tonight. The Miami team bulldozed through the Milwaukee Bucks by utilizing their 3pt hot shooting and clear leadership from Jimmy Butler and Co. As they face the Celtics, the biggest question remains, “Can the Heat put the pressure on Jayson Tatum?” I would say Jimmy Butler or Jae Crowder will be the guys trying to defend Tatum. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra knows stopping the J’s of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be the essential assignment in this series.
Offensively, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, and Bam Adebayo are the big names to watch in this series. Adebayo averaged heading to the FT line nearly 9 times in this postseason per game. Jimmy Butler is the lead scorer for his team this season, and Jae Crowder is rising in the ranks from beyond the arc. Finding open shots from 3 would be a gamechanger for this series as the Heat are slightly better from this range than their opposition. Since Miami plays fast-pace ball like the Raptors did against the Celtics, they will most likely pick up key fouls at the rim courtesy of Daniel Theis. Starting off quick and capitalizing on turnovers will be key in Game 1 to set the tone for the series.
Defensively, the Heat will need to stop the offensive firepower of Jayson Tatum and the court analysis of Kemba Walker. Walker might not always put up big numbers but he strategies well on the court, knowing exactly where to pass the ball to help his team put up points. Miami knows they will have their hands full with Marcus Smart as he is the most physical player on the Celtics squad. Keys to success for the Heat defense: Contain Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, push Marcus Smart to potentially foul-out, and control the mastery of Kemba Walker on the court.
ANALYSIS AND PREDICTION
These two teams are competitive and hungry to strike a victory tonight. The Celtics might not have the advantage from beyond the arc, but they do have a stellar lineup who can attack the rim better than the Heat. I see this being a shootout with Jaylen Brown and Jimmy Butler going toe-to-toe for who scores more points. I trust the Celtics to get the job done and strike first in this series. The Heat will not go quietly though as I expect them to hit some killer 3’s courtesy of Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. Celtics snag the W with a final score of: Celtics 118, Heat 112.