It’s getting towards the business end of the NBA Playoffs now, with the Conference Finals slated to get underway on Wednesday, the 16th of September with the Boston Celtics facing off against the Heat in the East.
The two great rivals played out some historic series when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Dywane Wade were playing for the respective teams and this series is set to be another one to remember. We have a full series preview and our betting tips below.
Series Schedule - *if necessary
Game 1 - Wednesday Sep 16 (10am AEST)
Game 2 - Friday Sep 18 (10am AEST)
Game 3 - Sunday Sep 20 (10.30am AEST)
Game 4 - Tuesday Sep 22 (10am AEST)
Game 5* - Thursday Sep 24 (10am AEST)
Game 6* - Saturday Sep 26 (10am AEST)
Game 7* - Monday Sep 28 (3am AEST)
If you polled 100 people on who they thought would reach the Eastern Conference Finals, maybe 1 or 2 would have got this matchup correct. The Miami Heat were fantastic in the opening round, sweeping the Pacers before shocking the basketball world with a dominant win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2. The Heat have lost just one game through the first two rounds and have looked like arguably the best team in the competition.
Unlike many of the other remaining teams in the playoffs, the heat don’t really have one player that has the keys to the car. Their success isn’t dependant on the performance of one player, and throughout their four wins over the Bucks, it was almost a different guy that was the standout player in each game.
The interior defence of Bam Adebayo and the playmaking of Jimmy Butler are both big factors to the Heat’s success but arguably their most important is the three point shooting of the surrounding cast in the likes of Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk. The Heat were the 2nd ranked team in 3pt% this season at 37.9 and will rely on the three ball throughout the conference finals series.
Facing the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals will be the Boston Celtics, who breezed past the Philadelphia 76ers with a first round sweep but needed all seven games to defeat the reigning champion Toronto Raptors in Round 2. Boston’s defence was in full flight in their series against the Raptors, keeping their opponents to fewer than 100 points in all four of their wins.
One massive factor for the Celtics could be the return of star Gordon Hayward. The talented wing played the first game against the 76ers in Round 1 but has missed every game since with an ankle injury. The return of Hayward gives the Celtics another valuable scoring and playmaking option that they lacked at times against the Raptors.
The key to the Celtics victory here is stopping the Heat three ball, luckily for htem, they are very equipped to do so. They have elite defenders all over the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and throughout the regular season, they had the best 3pt defence in the league, allowing their opponents to shoot just 33.5% from beyond the arc.
What a tough matchup to call between two teams that are really evenly matched. On paper, you have to give the slight edge to the Celtics, especially with another star player in Hayward set to return. However, the Heat have never been a team that you judged on paper, they have something extra that has made them so dominant throughout this series.
The Celtics start as favourites, which we think is a bit odd given how the Heat dispatched of the Bucks in the second round. We are finding it hard to split these teams, and regardless of who advances to the finals, we think it will be a long series.
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