After meeting one another in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals in the NBA Bubble a couple of years back, the Boston Celtics will once again take on the Miami Heat with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line.
These two teams have squared off twice with one another all-time in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Miami winning both series, but this year has a chance to be different given that the Celtics just took down the defending champions in the Milwaukee Bucks.
Boston won their Eastern Conference Semifinals series in seven games, showing a ton of resilience and fight given that they trailed 3-2 in this series to Milwaukee. Jayson Tatum is an emerging superstar and given how strong of a defensive team they are, the Celtics are favored early on in this series against the Miami Heat.
However, the Heat are a championship-level team themselves and they have proven to be a tough opponent all year long.
Miami not only finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, but they handled the Atlanta Hawks in five games and then seemed very comfortable against the Philadelphia 76ers in six games during these playoffs.
Jimmy Butler has been playing lights out, Bam Adebayo is a high-level two-way threat and having arguably the most depth in the league, the Heat could very well go back to the NBA Finals for the second-time in the last three seasons.
Very little separates these two teams heading into this Eastern Conference Finals series, so let’s take a look at some key details regarding both teams and what we should expect to see starting on Tuesday night.
Miami Will Look To Attack Boston On The Inside With or Without Robert Williams
One thing the Milwaukee Bucks did really well against the Boston Celtics in their Eastern Conference Semifinals series was attacking the paint and exposing Boston’s lack of interior presence with Robert Williams III out.
Due to knee soreness stemming from his meniscus injury about a month ago, Williams has been forced to miss some action for the Celtics and has not looked like the same rim-protector from earlier in the year during these playoffs.
Size is going to matter a lot in this series for both the Celtics and Heat and right now, Bam Adebayo has a massive advantage over Boston.
Not only will he be able to score over Al Horford and smaller defenders Boston throws at him, but without Williams being a real factor, the Heat as a whole will be able to drive downhill and attack the rim easier than usual.
The Heat found a lot of success putting the Philadelphia 76ers in high pick-and-roll situations where they could attack the paint driving downhill and we should expect to see a lot of this “two-man” pick-and-roll sets again from head coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat with or without Robert Williams III on the floor for Boston.
Jimmy Butler has been excellent getting to his spots off of ball-screens in the postseason and early on, Miami is likely to try and attack Boston with these downhill offensive sets.
Robert Williams' health will play a massive role in how this series plays out.
Celtics Will Continue To Rely On Three-Point Shot
In their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics went 49-138 (35.5%) from three-point range. In their semifinals series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston went 110-292 (37.8%) from deep and they were +159 from three-point range against Milwaukee in this series.
Heading into the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston is going to continue to rely on the three-point shot, especially since they are not that strong of an interior team.
They have done a great job on offense of moving the ball around the perimeter and the one advantage the Celtics’ have right now with Robert Williams III out is that they can spread the floor a little better than usual on the offensive-side of things.
Al Horford is a big man who has proven to be a three-point shooting threat and with Jayson Tatum having the ability to play the power-forward position, the Celtics have been able to roll out some three-guard lineups at times, giving them an advantage out on the perimeter.
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard are all capable of knocking down multiple three-pointers in any game and due to this shooting depth, the Celtics are going to look to attack the Heat from the outside instead of the interior early on in the series.
Will There Be A Duncan Robinson Sighting?
After playing in 79 games, the most out of any player on the Miami Heat’s roster this season, Duncan Robinson played just 19 total minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and he really did not play much against the Atlanta Hawks in the Heat’s first-round series either.
Robinson’s defensive concerns are one of the main reasons why he has not played much, but he is one of the best three-point shooters in the league and he has played well against Boston in his career.
In nine regular season games against the Celtics, Duncan Robinson has averaged 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and has shot 40.2% from three-point range. In the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals versus Boston, Robinson averaged 12.5 points per game and shot 40.8% from deep.
Max Strus, Victor Oladipo, Caleb Martin and Tyler Herro have received almost all of the minutes out on the perimeter for the Heat in the postseason, but could Duncan Robinson make an impact in this series?
It is possible we will see Robinson quite a bit in this series for the Heat simply because of what Boston has been able to do out on the perimeter in these playoffs, specifically against the Milwaukee Bucks.
A lot of the Celtics’ offensive production has come from the outside and with them being a really strong defensive team, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo may not find as much success as they have from inside the arc.
Getting three-point shooting production is going to be key for the Heat in this series and just two or three made shots from the perimeter per game from Duncan Robinson could go a long way in terms of them contending in and possibly winning this series.
Jaylen Brown Must Step Up As The Third-Best Player In This Series
Jimmy Butler is going to do his thing for Miami and Jayson Tatum will do his thing for Boston, but the battle for that third key star spot in this series is between Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro right now.
Between these three, Jaylen Brown has the most scoring potential and has a greater impact on his team’s chances of winning, which is why he must be the third-best player in this series in order for the Celtics to have a chance at advancing to the NBA Finals.
Against the Bucks, Brown stepped up in Games 2 and 3 of the series, scoring 30 points and 27 points, respectively, but he was quiet for a vast majority of the series.
In three games against Miami during the regular season, Jaylen Brown averaged 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and shot 47.8% from three-point range. This is the All-Star type of player Brown can be and this is the kind of player he will need to be in the Eastern Conference Finals starting Tuesday.
Jayson Tatum cannot do everything for the Celtics alone and while guys like Al Horford, Derrick White and Grant Williams are solid secondary contributors, none of them have the scoring potential and skillset that Brown has on the offensive-end of the floor.
An above-average athlete that has proven to be a multi-dimensional scoring threat early on in his career, Jaylen Brown is the perfect No. 2 option for the Celtics in this series against the Heat because of matchups.
Maybe Jimmy Butler or P.J. Tucker will be defending him, but Brown’s ability to explode from perimeter to rim in just one or two dribbles is what makes him an All-Star talent in this league.
At times this season, Jaylen Brown has shown flashes of his star-like potential and he will once again need to have some big-time performances against Miami for Boston to keep their championship hopes alive.
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