Celtics vs. Heat: Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Drew Gray '23

To think that the Celtics were on the brink of elimination just 5 days ago. 

In a game where Boston led by 14 at one point in the third quarter, a 40-point performance by Giannis Antetokounmpo coupled with Jrue Holiday’s late-game heroics against Marcus Smart led to their demise at the TD Garden. 

As a diehard Celtics fan myself, I was too nervous to even watch Game 6. Not only did the C’s blow a lead in their own arena, but they were now forced to go into Fiserv Forum for another battle with Milwaukee. 

However, a different result was the outcome in this win-or-go-home scenario for the Celtics. With a 46-point offensive master class, Jayson Tatum showed up once again in a career-defining game. 

And, in Game 7, we saw more of the same, except this time from an unexpected hero. Grant Williams, who has emerged as an important role player for the C’s this season, had a career-high in both the regular season and the playoffs in quite possibly the biggest game he has played in yet. Williams had 7 threes, tying the Game 7 record for most 3 pointers made. 

Now Boston finds themselves in a matchup with the number one-seeded Miami Heat. Needless to say, after running the gauntlet of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the Brooklyn Nets and arguably the best player in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat do not raise as much of a concern to me. Granted, Celtics fans should not take them lightly; they are the one seed for a reason. 

But, they do not have one superstar like Kevin Durant or Giannis. They are a complete team that competes on both sides of the floor that is extremely well-coached by arguably the best coach in basketball, Erik Spoelstra. Led by the likes of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Miami is also loaded with depth. Sixth man of the year Tyler Herro, veteran Victor Oladipo, and sharpshooter Duncan Robinson are just a few examples of just how large this rotation can be. 

Undoubtedly, the Celtics’ depth will be tested in this series. The C’s usually have only an 8-9 man rotation, depending on the play of Payton Pritchard. And, rather than the physical battle that the Bucks posed in the previous round, this round should certainly be more perimeter-oriented. Both teams shoot the 3-pointer often and at a high clip. 

Because of this, I do think the matchup that Miami poses is a favorable one for Boston. The Celtics’ strength defensively is defending the perimeter and this series provides the perfect opportunity to showcase this. 

Despite all of this, I think this series is going to come down to two things: the health of Kyle Lowry and the health of Robert Williams. Lowry has been absent for the majority of the playoffs thus far, bouncing in and out of the lineup. As for Williams, his length on the perimeter will be key for the Celtics in this matchup, after a series where his attributes weren’t of as much importance. Injuries are always key things to consider in a playoff matchup, and in this case, it happens to be two equally valuable players to their respective teams. 

Lastly, my prediction for this series is for the Celtics to win in 6 games. If the C’s had home-court advantage, perhaps I would have pushed it to 5, but homecourt is invaluable, especially in a series of this caliber. 

Will this be the series to send the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years? Or will the Celtics come up short once again? 

I don’t know, but I’m ready to find out.

Sources: https://www.espn.com/nba/team/_/name/bos/boston-celtics