The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics open the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night in Orlando.
This is the first-ever Eastern Conference Finals where no number 1 seed is a part of. The Heat eliminated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the second round, ousting Giannis and co. in five games. The Celtics meanwhile, ensured that there would be no repeat champions this season. Boston eliminated the Toronto Raptors in seven games in their own second-round series.
These teams played three times during the regular season and the Celtics won their season series 2-1. However, the Heat were playing the second of back to back games when the teams met thrice this season. These teams have met in three previous playoff series and the Heat have won the last two of those. Overall though, Miami is 9-8 all-time against Boston in the postseason.
Not many people took Jimmy Butler seriously when he said last offseason that the Heat would win the 2020 NBA title. But after two playoff rounds, the Heat have found a handful of believers. Miami swept 5th seeded Indian in Round One and made the Bucks look like Bambi in the second round. They still have a tough task ahead but the Heat are dead serious about getting to the Finals for the first time since LeBron left South Beach.
Jimmy Butler has led a balanced-scoring Heat team with 21.8 points per game in the playoffs. Goran Dragic has also been a consistent contributor for Miami at 21.1 points and 4.7 assists per game in the postseason. First-time all-star Bam Adebayo is putting up a double-double with 16.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game for Miami. Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder, and Duncan Robinson are also averaging in double-digit scoring and have been knocking down the three-pointers for the Heat.
As a team, Miami is averaging 112.1 points per game in the playoffs while shooting 46.1% from the field and an impressive 38.0% from behind the three-point arc during the postseason. The Heat shut down the vaunted Milwaukee offense in their series, limiting the Bucks to 104 or fewer points in three of their four wins in the series.
The Boston Celtics head to this series after a hard-fought seven-game series against the Toronto Raptors. Prior to that, the Celtics opened their 2020 postseason campaign by sweeping Joel Embiid’s Sixers. Now Boston will advance to their third Conference Finals in the last four seasons. And hopefully this time, they will move on to their first NBA Finals appearance in a decade.
Forward Jayson Tatum has emerged as the Celtics’ best player this season. The former third pick of the 2017 NBA Draft leads the Celtics in scoring during this postseason at 25.3 points per game while also pulling down 10.1 boards per contest and issuing 4.1 dimes per outing. Jaylen Brown has also been a standout at 21.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Marcus Smart is also having a fantastic postseason at 13.1 PPG. Smart’s big defensive play against Norman Powell in Game 7 helped seal the win for Boston.
The Celtics are scoring an average of 107.6 points per game in the postseason. Boston is shooting 45.0% from the field and 34.1% from three-point land. Defense has been key to Boston’s success in the playoffs. They limited the Raptors to 85 points in Game 5 and 87 points in Game 7.
The Heat are 8-2 SU in their last 10 games played. Miami is 5-1 SU in their last six games played on the road, and 8-1 SU in their last nine games played against the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are 7-3 SU in their last 10 games played. Boston is 6-0 SU in their last six games played on the road and 11-4 SU in their last 15 games played against the Eastern Conference. Head to head, the Celtics have won five out of their last six meetings against the Heat.
Miami owned the biggest win of the second round as they ousted the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. However, the team has not played since September 8th. On the other hand, the Celtics are coming off a hard-fought seven-game series against the defending champions Toronto Raptors. That series ended just last Friday and Boston should still be feeling the momentum of that victory.
This will be the first trip to the conference finals for Jimmy Butler although the Heat have veterans in Iguodala and Haslem. The Celtics have been in the conference finals in three out of the last four seasons with the likes of Brown, Smart, and Tatum already been here before.
Both these teams have displayed tremendous defense during the postseason and I won’t be surprised if it’s defense that wins this series. Between these two very good defensive teams, I like the Celtics to pick up the win because they have more experience and more firepower than Miami.
Prediction: Boston Celtics
Miami is 8-1 ATS in their last nine games played. The Heat are 5-1 ATS in their last six games played. Boston is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games played. The Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last six games played on the road, 1-4 ATS in their last five games against the Southwest Division, and 4-2 ATS in their last six September games. Head to head, the Heat are 6-4 ATS in their last 10 games played against the Celtics. However, Boston has covered two out of the last three meetings.
Both these teams have played well against the spread in the bubble tournament. Miami and Boston both have excellent defensive teams and when you have two teams like this going at each other, the one who has a more explosive offense wins the game. Miami has excellent shooters but when it comes to a shot-maker, Butler Boston has more with Tatum, Brown, Walker, and even Smart. Give me the Celtics here.
Prediction: Celtics -1.5
The total has gone under in seven out of the last 10 games played by the Heat. The under is 5-1 in Miami’s last six games played on the road. The total has gone under in eight out of the last nine games played by the Celtics. Boston has seen the total go under in each of their last six games played on the road. Head to head, the under is 5-1 in the last six games played between these two teams.
Both these teams ranked in the Top 10 in the league when it comes to scoring defense but Boston’s is a little bit better. The Celtics ranked 2nd during the regular season in scoring defense. They are second in the playoffs at 106.4 points per game allowed. These teams have combined to score an average of 204.9 points per game in their last 10 meetings and 211.0 points per game in their last three head to head meetings. The games between these two teams haven’t been high scoring ones and given that this is the Eastern Conference Finals, I expect both defenses to be up to the task.
Prediction: Under 209.5
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