A gaggle of principally 20-something out-of-towners heading to Miami this time of 12 months sometimes could be known as spring breakers.
However for our functions, we’re referring to the Boston Celtics. Their reward for outlasting the Milwaukee Bucks in a grueling seven-game Japanese Convention semifinal sequence is a date within the convention finals with the No. 1-seeded Miami Warmth, beginning Tuesday.
The sequence is a rematch of the 2020 conference finals, besides then the Celtics had the upper seed and the video games have been at Walt Disney World — one other spring trip vacation spot in Florida.
Most of the key characters are the identical. The No. 2-seeded Celtics are as soon as once more led by their prime guards, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Sensible, whereas the Warmth will counter with their prime stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
However regardless that the rosters haven’t modified a lot, there are vital variations from two years in the past. The Celtics at the moment are coached by Ime Udoka, who morphed Boston’s protection into the league’s greatest in his first season. Boston’s Grant Williams and Miami’s Tyler Herro have been rookies in 2020 and have since developed into indispensable position gamers.
Here’s what to look out for within the Japanese Convention finals.
Wait. Earlier than we get to that, wasn’t there one thing essential that occurred within the 2020 sequence?
Sure. On the finish of Sport 1, Adebayo blocked a Tatum dunk try that might have tied the rating in additional time. It was one of the crucial essential blocks in N.B.A. historical past and it modified the trajectory of a sequence that Boston was favored to win. The sequence was shut: Three of the Warmth’s 4 wins have been by lower than double digits.
How did every workforce do that 12 months?
The Warmth went 53-29, their greatest regular-season record since 2013-14, when LeBron James was on the workforce and so they misplaced to San Antonio within the N.B.A. finals. This season offered their seventh highest win whole in franchise historical past.
Boston completed sizzling on their heels. On Jan. 28, the Celtics have been 25-25. Since then, together with the playoffs, they’ve lost only nine times. They ended the common season with 51 wins for a outstanding turnaround.
Each groups have been robust defensively, however not as proficient offensively.
The playoffs are a unique animal, although.
The Celtics opted to not attempt to keep away from the Nets within the first spherical, regardless that that meant Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — two A-list stars — would await them. It turned out they didn’t have to fret. The Celtics swept the Nets, solidifying their standing as a workforce to be feared.
Additionally within the first spherical, Miami confronted the Atlanta Hawks, who make use of one of many N.B.A.’s greatest guards in Trae Younger. The Hawks have been hampered with accidents, and the Warmth simply dispatched them in 5 video games, partly due to a suffocating protection on Younger.
Within the second spherical, the Celtics exchanged haymakers with the Bucks, who have been lacking a perennial All-Star within the injured Khris Middleton. The Celtics withstood 44 factors and 20 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo in Sport 6, one of many best playoff performances ever. Tatum countered with 46 factors to hold the Celtics to Sport 7, the place Milwaukee ran out of fuel.
Miami caught a break in its semifinal sequence in opposition to the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid, the second-place finisher within the voting for the Most Invaluable Participant Award, missed a part of the sequence due to a concussion and an orbital bone fracture. The Warmth took the primary two video games at residence. Embiid unexpectedly returned for Video games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia, spurring two wins for the Sixers. However Miami adjusted and took the ultimate two contests, and the sequence.
Who’s favored on this sequence?
It’s a toss up. Miami has home-court benefit, however the Celtics have been a unique workforce within the second half of the season.
Each groups are strikingly comparable in that they make use of environment friendly, lively, switching defenses, whereas sometimes fighting offensive droughts. Each groups can have a welcome break from having to take care of a bodily bruising heart like Antetokounmpo or Embiid.
The Celtics have Tatum, who at 24 has blossomed into one of the crucial full gamers within the N.B.A. He has additionally proven a penchant for delivering in large moments — just like the 46-point efficiency in opposition to the Bucks, or his 50-point displaying in a first-round playoff win in opposition to the Nets final 12 months. Through the common season, Tatum averaged 26.9 factors, 8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per recreation — all profession highs. He has additionally improved at creating alternatives for teammates.
The Warmth have Butler, a flexible six-time All-Star. He averaged 21.4 factors, 5.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per recreation through the common season. Within the postseason, Butler has been dominant, averaging 28.7 factors, 7.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 10 video games.
As well as, the Warmth have the 22-year-old Herro, who averaged 20.7 factors a recreation off the bench and was named the sixth man of the 12 months. He can, every so often, take over a recreation by himself. Considered one of his greatest performances got here in opposition to Boston within the 2020 playoffs, when he scored a career-high 37 factors.
Any X components?
Well being, for one factor. The Celtics stated Monday that Marcus Sensible, their place to begin guard and the league’s defensive participant of the 12 months, is questionable for Sport 1 because of a foot sprain. The Warmth’s place to begin guard, Kyle Lowry, a six-time All-Star, is unlikely to play in Sport 1 due to a hamstring harm. He’s missed most of the playoffs so far.
The Celtics’ beginning heart, Robert Williams III, shall be accessible for Boston, an enormous increase after he had missed many of the postseason due to a knee harm. His athleticism and shot-blocking abilities shall be a vital counter to Adebayo.
The Celtics have been buoyed by spurts of offense from Grant Williams, Al Horford and Payton Pritchard in opposition to the Bucks, whereas for the Warmth, the third-year ahead Max Strus has been a robust scorer off the bench.
Miami is slower and extra methodical on offense than Boston and fewer reliant on 3-pointers. Warmth guard Victor Oladipo, after lacking many of the common season recovering from an harm, has emerged as a playmaker within the postseason. He has reached double figures in scoring four of his eight playoff games.
Why will Boston win?
The perfect defensive workforce within the N.B.A. will restrict Butler’s effectiveness. As a result of Butler is a weak 3-point shooter, Boston will crowd the paint and muck up Miami’s spacing. With the Williamses and Horford, Adebayo gained’t have the ability to roam on protection as simply.
Additionally, Tatum is one of the best offensive participant on both workforce.
Why will Miami win?
Miami is the extra bodily workforce, and Butler gained’t be fazed by the Celtics’ protection. Whereas his defenders sag off him from the perimeter, he’s expert sufficient to power his manner into the paint and create house for shooters like Strus and Herro.
The Celtics will rely an excessive amount of on deep 3s due to Adebayo’s robust rim safety and so they’ll have chilly capturing nights. Miami has the extra dependable bench with Herro and Oladipo, a two-time All-Star. And in the event that they want capturing in a pinch, they’ll mud off Duncan Robinson, who has been out and in of Miami’s rotation within the playoffs after beginning 68 video games within the common season.
And if Miami doesn’t begin off by profitable video games, Udonis Haslem, who has been on the Warmth roster because the Huge Bang, will yell at them till they do.