The temperature is rising in the NBA Playoffs as the evenly-matched Boston Celtics and Miami Heat gear up for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
08:30 (AEST), Wed 16th Sep @ HP Field House, Orlando
History: Played 140: Celtics 83 V Heat 57
Last meeting: August 4, 2020: Heat 112 d Celtics 106 at HP Field House
Final Thoughts: Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are destined for a titanic Eastern Conference Finals series after dumping out top two seeds Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks in the Semi-finals.
The Celtics swept the 76ers in the First Round before outlasting the Raptors in a classic seven-game series.
Jayson Tatum has stepped up as an offensive spearhead throughout the post-season, averaging 26.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists against Toronto. Jaylen Brown has also been impressive, while the influence of veteran Kemba Walker has been key.
Boston have negotiated the absence of Gordon Hayward, who is set to return during this series, very well.
Meanwhile, the surging Heat have lost just once so far in the Playoffs. They swept the Pacers with four wins by nine-plus, they decimated the No.1 seed Bucks 4-1.
Jimmy Butler has led this Miami team brilliantly, including a 40-point night in the series opener against Milwaukee and some clutch fourth-quarter plays. Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo are also enjoyed superb post-seasons.
The Celtics have won five of their last six games against the Heat. But the Heat – minus Butler – beat the Celtics 112-106 during the seeding games. Bam Adebayo (21 pts, 12 reb) led the way for Miami, while Tatum (23 pts, 7 reb) was Boston’s standout.
The teams’ last NBA Playoffs meeting was in the 2012 Conference Finals. The LeBron- and D-Wade-inspired Heat beating Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and the Celtics in seven.
Underrated Celtics piece Marcus Smart has the task of marking up on the Heat’s marquee man Butler. Dousing Tatum’s explosiveness should be at the top of Miami’s to-do list.
The Celtics are narrow favourites for Game 1 but the well-rested Heat are the best bet to draw first blood.
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