The Miami Heat are up to facing off against their Eastern Conference Rival, the Boston Celtics in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. Each team is known for their top-tier defensive and offensive depth, this series will showcase two hungry teams with great matchups fans to watch.
This season the Boston Celtics have been recognized throughout the NBA for their amazing defense that has stopped power house teams like the Brooklyn Nets featuring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving along with the 2021 NBA Champs Milwaukee Bucks featuring Giannis Anetokoumpo, who is arguably the most dominant physical force the NBA has seen since Shaquile O’neal. The Boston Celtics even have the first guard in Marcus Smart, who is the first guard to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award since 1996. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge for the Miami Heat going into the next series will be stopping Boston's young core that definitely starts with superstar Jayson Tatum.
Jayson Tatum has been excellent this playoffs and has shown that he deserves to be considered a Superstar in this league. Tatum put up at least 29 points in three out of the four games of the Celtics sweep against the Nets and he took a large portion of the Defensive challenge to guard one of the NBA’s most lethal scorers in Kevin Durant. Durant was held to very 38.6% from the field, which is the worst shooting percentage since his rookie year as well.
In the next series against the reigning NBA champions, Tatum shot 51.2% from three on a combined 24 attempts in the Game 6 and 7 against the Bucks. Tatum has shown that he is not afraid to shy away from the big moment and he is one of the most talented scorers in the NBA and Miami will have to bring their A game against them. He’s not alone either. There’s also Jaylen Brown to try and slow down.
Brown has also been a great second option for the Celtics delivering at least 18 points in almost every single game other than Game 1 in the Milwaukee Series. Brown has averaged an impressive 22.3 ppg along with a sharp 37.3% shooting from behind the arc this postseason. Other role players such as Al Horford, Grant Williams, and Payton Pritchard have all had big offensive games so far. Some to highlight were Al Horford's career high in points in Game 4 versus the Bucks and Grant william’s 27 in a critical game 7 against the Bucks.
However, similarly to the Celtics, the Heat have one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The Heat had the 4th best defensive rating of 104.6 during the regular season, only behind the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and the Boston Celtics. The rating does not give the Heat enough credit since they were not fully healthy during the Regular Season.
Some of their defensive guards/wings such as Victor Oladipo, PJ Tucker, and Gabe Vincent have laid a huge impact while all being in the lineup during the playoffs. Just like the Celtics, the Heat have held their opponents star players in Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and James Harden to some of the worst playoff series of their playoff careers.
Not to mention defensive anchor and 2-time All Defensive Team Selection Bam Adebayo has done a great job of locking down the paint. Last time the Heat faced off against the Celtics in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, Adebayo had a game-saving block against Tatum in Game 1. Many say this is considered in the eyes of many as the best block in NBA history. Tyler Herro was also a rookie sensation during the Heat’s 2020 playoff run even erupted for one of his best games in his career with a playoff high with 37 points.
As a result, The Heat have a lot of pressure to win this series since they have been the number one seed in the Eastern Conference throughout the regular season and many critics have said their success in the 2020 was a fluke due to the circumstances of the NBA Bubble.
Regardless, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler and his South Beach crew are on a mission to prove that they deserve to be in the Eastern Conference Finals with some of the NBA’s best competition. There is history between these two teams, but the Heat have stayed prepared after the short 4 day rest and are ready to face off against the Celtics.