Live from Orlando, the Heat and Celtics are ready to tip off Tuesday night for the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami has not made the NBA Finals without LeBron since 2006, while Boston has not been to the Championship round since 2010. Now, one of them is guaranteed to qualify with just four more wins.
Miami took care of the #1 Bucks in five games, in large part due to their fourth-quarter efficiency. Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro made big shot after big shot. They are the big story of the bubble, going from a #5 seed to posting an 8-1 record in the first two rounds. The clutch factor and competitive drive are why the Heat brought Butler on board.
The Celtics had to beat a tough Toronto Raptors team but emerged victorious after seven games. A series that went back and forth saw the “home” team lose all seven games. Boston will need to hope that isn’t the case this time, given they are the higher seed.
That said, Boston will be ready for the fight, having had a few days to rest after the wild Game 7 they just played on Friday.
The spread for the series-opener favors the Celtics by 1.5 points. The over/under is set at 210.5.
Miami Looks for 1-0 Lead Again
Game 1’s have proven kind to the Heat, having already won them against both Indiana and Milwaukee this year. Butler is playing fantastic basketball on both ends of the floor, and his leadership just as valuable as his strong play. Even when he only takes eight shots, Butler is still having a monumental impact on many of these contests.
Bam Adebayo has continued to dominate on the defensive end and the offensive glass. Additionally, he is improving his scoring ability, and his mid-range game is smooth. Goran Dragic has been doing his job by scoring 20+ almost every game, while Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson continue to patrol the three-point line.
Kelly Olynyk will go against some old Celtics teammates, hoping to help his new team however he can in this series. Olynyk signed with Miami via free agency after four seasons in Boston.
Boston Looking to Avoid Hole
Like Miami, the Celtics are also 2-0 in game 1’s this year. They will be hoping to buck Miami’s trend with a win in this one. Grabbing momentum with a Game 1 win will be instrumental to success for both clubs.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have regularly logged 40+ minutes in the playoffs so far. That will be the case again, with Kemba Walker hoping to get back in the groove after a subpar Conference Semifinals round. Walker will need to be at his best for Boston to have a chance.
Daniel Theis’ defensive play on Bam Adebayo will be critical. Adebayo is the motor that drives Miami’s offense; Theis must deny passing lanes and make sure to limit Adebayo’s jumpers.
Boston Takes Game 1
Boston should take Game 1 against a formidable Heat team. While Miami will likely keep things close (thus the -1.5 spread), Walker, Tatum and Brown will cool the Heat and grab the series lead.
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