Celtics

Celtics Should Cruise Through Rest of Round 1 vs. Heat

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A wise man once said, “There are three things in life that are certain: Death, Taxes, and the Boston Celtics facing off against the Miami Heat in the NBA Playoffs.”

The Celtics and Heat will have now faced off in four of the last five postseasons, with the Heat having won two of the last three. While the Celtics lead 1-0 thus far, the question remains, who will win round four?

The Celtics 

The Celtics have to win.

The 2023-24 Celtics have seemed to be a team of destiny. Entering the playoffs, the Celtics finished 64-18, their first 60-plus-win season since 2008-09. Current Milwaukee Bucks head coach Doc Rivers was at the helm for the Celtics at that time.

The Celtics have also boasted a net rating of 11.6, which has put them fourth all time. The only teams to have a greater net rating are the Michael Jordan-led Bulls, and the Kevin Durant Warriors (all won the championship). The Celtics this season have also held a home record of 37-4, which places them in the top-30 all time for home record in a single season. However, all of that can turn quickly, as Boston fans know all too well with the 2007 New England Patriots, and last year’s Boston Bruins.

The Heat

Last season, the Heat were in almost this exact situation: the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference, and were poised to play the one-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. After an injury to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Heat were able to defeat the Bucks in five games, en route to another NBA Finals appearance.

But in the battle for the seventh seed with the Philadelphia 76ers in this year’s Play-In Tournament, the Heat lost their most important player in Jimmy Butler.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski both reported that Butler is expected to miss several weeks with an MCL injury in his right knee. The Heat are, essentially, playing with house money. Miami could look at this series to be able to help develop their younger players, most notably Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Season Series 

After Sunday’s game, the Celtics have now beat the Heat four times this season. In the first matchup of the season, the Celtics defeated the Heat 119-111, behind Derrick White’s 28-point performance. In the team’s second matchup, the Celtics embarrassed the Heat 143-110 on Miami’s own floor.

The third matchup, however, is where fans of both teams took notice. The Celtics narrowly defeated Miami 110-106, but Butler was absent for this game for personal reasons. This was an extremely important game for the Celtics, however, as they were able to show the ability to close out a game, which was not believed could be done.

In Game 1 on Sunday, the Celtics took control from the jump, completing the wire-to-wire victory despite a late fourth-quarter surge by the Heat.

Through the season, the Celtics have been able to maintain dominance over the Heat, and look to maintain it in their pursuit of three more victories.

X-Factors

Miami Heat

Without Butler, the biggest X-factor for the Heat is Caleb Martin.

Martin was arguably the most valuable player for the Heat in the previous postseason. Martin boosted his nine points per game into nineteen points during the Eastern Conference Finals, en route to a seven-game defeat of the Celtics.

If the Heat want to be able to defeat the Celtics once more, Martin can’t have only four points on 2-of-6 shooting like he did in Game 1.

Boston Celtics

Kristaps Porzingis.

This seems to be a no-brainer, as what Porzingis brings to the Celtics can help decide a series. One of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s defensive tactics that has haunted the Celtics for years has been the zone defense.

After the Celtics defeat in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics went out to acquire Porzingis from the Washington Wizards. In the second game for the Celtics against Miami during the season, Spoelstra attempted to use the zone defense to stop the Celtics’ offense. However, Porzingis’ ability to shoot was able to make Spoelstra’s go-to defense unusable, which has been able to help make the Celtics far more dangerous against Miami.

Prediction

The Celtics’ offense and defense are both too talented for Miami, and the loss of Jimmy Butler and status of guard Terry Rozier leaves the Heat at a severe disadvantage.

The Celtics, coming off essentially weeks of rest after clinching home-court advantage, are hungry for a deep playoff run, and starting off by knocking off one of the team’s largest threats over previous years will be a large confidence boost.

Final prediction: Celtics in 5.

About Owen O'Connor

Elon ‘28. Boston, MA

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