Familiar Foes Squaring Off Again for Another East Crown


Let’s rewind back to the fall of 2020, shall we?

The NBA is finishing its season in the Orlando “bubble” and the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics squared off in the Eastern Conference Finals. A series in which Miami won 4-2.

It was an exciting matchup that brought with it a number of momentous events. Most memorably being Bam Adebayo‘s game-sealing block on Jayson Tatum in Game 1 and Tyler Herro‘s 37-point masterpiece in Game 4.

All in all, it was impossible to ask for a better series.

Fast-forward to present day and both teams find themselves back in the same place: fighting for a trip to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics enter as arguably the hottest team in the association. After a bumpy start, they finished the regular season winning 31 of their final 40 games. Defense has been their calling card, as they sported the best defensive rating in the regular season (106.2) and third-best this postseason (105.2). This allowed them to sweep Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in the first round before eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games, albeit no Khris Middleton.

As for the Heat, they finished number one in the East prior to steamrolling past the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers. Believe it or not, they have actually compiled a better defensive rating than the Celtics this postseason (104.6). Only the Bucks

On paper, this is going to be a defensive slugfest. But is that such a bad thing?

The NBA Gods have now graciously given us five playoff series between both teams in the last 12 years. And that is enough to be thankful for.

Here are three important keys for the Heat heading into the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals.

Getting Herro Going

It was no secret that Doc Rivers‘ entire game plan was to shut Herro down. In fact, he said exactly that during the previous round.

“Let’s make a mistake on anybody, but Tyler Herro”, he uttered to his team during halftime of Game 1.

While the Sixers didn’t win the series, Herro struggled his way to 12.6 points on 43% shooting from the field in Games 2-6. He saw a variety of blitzes and double-teams as soon as he crossed halfcourt. One would think Boston will take a similar approach, but they have more defensive weapons to throw at the Heat. Besides, the last thing they want is to open up more driving lanes for Jimmy Butler.

Simply put, Herro has to be aggressive in this series and it’s up to Erik Spoelstra to get him going.

Fun fact: Most of Herro’s shot attempts this season have come from mid-range (44%), while Boston has allowed the most mid-range shots this season (39.3%).

Navigating The Switch

As previously mentioned, both teams are among the top defenses in the league. With that said, switching has become a vital part of their respective strategies.

Per John Schuhmann of NBA.com, the Celtics have switched 55% of ball screens in the playoffs, the highest rate of all 16 teams. Meanwhile, the Heat have switched 44%, which ranks as fourth-most.

It’s worth noting that Butler had much success exploiting mismatches in the previous series against Philadelphia. Whether it was Tyrese Maxey or Danny Green, Butler hunted them and played bully ball. If Boston switches everything or plays Al Horford and Daniel Theis in drop coverage, it will be tough to create the desired mismatch they are seeking.

Not to mention, Boston’s starting five has no glaring defensive weaknesses. They are long, tall and gritty. Derrick White and Payton Pritchard represent the only real options for Miami to hunt.

Spoelstra and the Heat will have to get creative in their actions to succeed offensively. Luckily, the newly minted ‘Top 15 Coach of All-Time’ is among the best at making game-to-game adjustments.

Utilizing Their Depth

The Heat is widely regarded around the league to have the most depth. On any given night, they can comfortably trot out a solid 10 guys. Yes, Duncan Robinson is included in that number.

As for the Celtics, they have seven or eight guys they feel confident in. And that depends on how you feel about Theis with Robert Williams likely returning to the lineup.

It remains to be seen if Spoelstra will tighten up the rotation now that we’re in the conference finals, but nonetheless, this feels like an absolute advantage to Miami.

This is the sole reason why they brought in guys like Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon and Caleb Martin.

And it could very well catapult Miami to their sixth NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

Old-School Street Fight to Commence

All things considered, this is shaping up to be an old-school street fight. With plenty of star power and a rich history between both franchises, this is exactly what playoff basketball is all about.

Just take a look at how similar both teams performed in the regular season.

Buckle up, folks! This series has seven games written all over it.

Butler Keeps His Receipts

About Alex Burns

    Recommended for you

    Powered by themekiller.com