The long-awaited Eastern Conference finals are here. With storylines galore and questions left to be answered. How will the Heat’s clutch three-point shooters fair against one of the best 3-point defenses? Will the young, but yet experienced Celtics have a breakout series to propel them to the finals?
All of these questions will be set to be answered and more as the two un-expected and slightly unconventional teams face off in game one of the best-of-seven series starting tonight as the NBA’s time in the bubble is wrapping up.
The Celtics, though very young, bring experience to the hardwood find themselves in the East finals for the third time in four seasons. However, they are playing for their first NBA Finals berth since 2010.
On the flip side, the Heat are looking grind their way to the finals since the trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh launched a four -year of consecutive appearances in the Finals, the last one coming in 2014. Coincidentally enough, if the Heat were to advance, they could face a familiar foe in LeBron James and the Lakers if they were to also advance from the Western Conference Finals on the other side.
Its almost like it is 2012 all over again, with an eight-year gap and big names who have shifted from James to Jimmy Butler and Paul Pierce to Jayson Tatum with the only remaining player on either team being veteran Udonis Haslem.
After a drought and re-building years, the two teams have un-expectedly both found themselves back like they never left.
Can the Heat Stay Hot? :
After eliminating the Eastern Conference favorite in five games in the conference semifinals, the Heat show no sign of cooling off. Though they have been resting since September 8, the Heat star shooters in Butler and Goran Dragic are putting together 20 points per game on average during the playoffs. While shooting-guard Tyler Herro and power forward Bam Adebayo aren’t far behind putting up on average 14.7 and 16.2 respectively. This will be the Heat’s emerging star Butler’s first conference finals.
Another key element of the Heats offensive prowess includes small forward Jae Crowder. Crowder is averaging over eight three’s per game in the post-game along with playing lights out on the other end defensively.
Overall, as a team, The Heat are shooting 44 percent on wide-open 3’s during the postseason. That is a four percent increase to their regular-season average.
Young, But Hungry:
As the youngest team left in the playoffs, the Celtics however are not short on experience. They have been there the past three out of four seasons. This year they are looking for the final push to the finals, and their young talent could be just the nudge they need to get over the hump.
Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens expressed how lucky his team is to have their two young and budding stars in Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Brad Stevens: “There aren’t many guys at 22 and 23 who have done what Jayson and Jaylen have done, especially in meaningful moments in playoff games, ever since they arrived here. We’re really lucky that those guys are here.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 14, 2020
In addition to Tatum and Brown being key for the Celtics in the series, the sharpshooting from Marcus Smart must continue and hopefully become more consistent. Plus, after a tough series against the Raptors for star guard, Kemba Walker will look to shake it off and continue to play meaningful minutes for Boston.
However, one of the biggest pieces of encouragement for the Celtics is the potential return of starting forward Gordon Hayward. The veteran had suffered a right ankle sprain early on in the first game of Round 1. But, Hayward’s return could be limited due to family obligations as his wife is pregnant with their fourth child and is expected to go into labor soon causing him to leave the bubble.
Defense Digs Deep:
As two of the best defenses in the league, shooting from both teams could be dramatically affected by strong defensive pressure and efforts. A key factor to note that neither the Celtics nor Heat posses a true center.
For the Heat, Adebayo has been fulfilling the role of a power forward and has effectively his size and height to affect the game as a threat offensively. In order to combat Adebayo’s big impacts of the game and his recent electric streak, Boston center Robert Wiliams will likely get minutes off the bench.
Guard Walker described this upcoming series as a dogfight as both teams look to capitalize on the opportunities at stake.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Kemba Walker says of the ECF. “We both have great opportunities in front of us and we both want it, so it’s going to be a war. Looking forward to it.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 14, 2020
With great opportunities and the desire to win, great basketball should be produced. Tune in tonight at 6:40 p.m. to catch all the action on ESPN.