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Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat Matchup Preview (05/17/22)

The Boston Celtics battle the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night. This appearance marks their third Conference Finals in the Jayson Tatum era, which has only lasted five seasons. Boston enters this matchup after defeating the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks 4-3. In a win-or-go home Game 7, the Celtics handled the Bucks 109-81 behind Grant Williams and his 27 points at 7:30 p.m. For the playoffs, Boston has an offensive rating of 112.5 and a defensive rating of 105.2. Miami is no stranger to Boston as they faced each other in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. Miami then defeated them, but Boston will seek revenge and try to win their first Finals appearance since 2010. However, they may have to start without Marcus Smart as he is questionable. If he is unable to play, the Celtics will start Derrick White in his place.

The Heat sent Joel Embiid and James Harden home by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2. They won 99-90 in Game 6 behind Jimmy Butler’s 32 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. In the playoffs, they have an offensive rating of 114.4 and a defensive rating of 104.6. Miami acquired Butler freehand in the 2019 offseason; since then they have been successful. The Heat lost 4-2 to the Lakers in the 2020 Finals, and they are now back in the Conference Finals. Kyle Lowry is out of Game 1 against the Celtics with a persistent hamstring problem, leaving Gabe Vincent to start. Miami’s depth is strong enough to promote Vincent without losing an advantage from their banking unit.

Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat Betting Odds

The spread is set at -1.5 heat and I like it when heat is covered. Smart won’t be 100% healthy and the Heat have had four full days off compared to one for the Celtics. Miami is 5-1 in Game 1 during the Butler era because they start strong, which can’t always be said of the Celtics. The Heat are 35-12 at home (including a 6-0 mark in the playoffs) and 26-20 away (including a 2-3 mark in the playoffs) this season. Based on those records, the Heat are a 61-win team at home and a 46-win team on the road. I think Boston is just the better team but home play and rest give Miami the advantage in Game 1.

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TV program

Date: 17.5.22
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Arena: FTX Arena – Miami, FL
Channel: ESPN

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Boston Celtics starting lineup

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III

Boston Celtics Analysis

Robert Williams is poised for maximum minutes after missing the last four games. His defense will be crucial against Miami as he offers top-notch rim protection and the ability to turn on the perimeter. In the regular season, Williams ranked in the 91st percentile for large volume spot up defense. He also led the NBA in opposing FG% with a fantastic 40.2 FG%. Williams suppresses a butler drive and quickly blitzes into the corner to stop a shot from PJ Tucker. His versatility will haunt the Heat all series and give Horford some respite from guarding Bam Adebayo. Miami also has to contend with Smart, Brown and Tatum’s elite perimeter defenses. Her strength and length allow Boston to switch everything, making it extremely difficult for offense to create space. Al Horford, who was just guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo as best he could, shuts down the paint and thrives in isolation defense.

Butler will find driving to Williams and Horford a chore. Its outlets will only be open for milliseconds as Smart, Brown and Tatum brutally shut down every fast lane. Off the bench, Grant Williams is a defensive weapon capable of defending a variety of positions. Overall, the Heat cannot hope to play isolation offensive and win the series. The top three players with the most isolation defenses this postseason are Horford (44), Tatum (33) and Grant Williams (33). Williams allows a tiny .54 points per possession on these plays, while Horford (.63 PPP) and Tatum (.72 PPP) were also excellent. If Boston can consistently play their elite defense, they’ll have the edge. They have more players who can create their own shot from dribbling, so smothering the Heat lets that advantage shine in the long run.

Boston Celtics team pages

Miami Heat starting lineup

PG: Gabe Vincent
SG: Max Strus
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Bam Adebayo

Miami Heat analysis

Jimmy Butler has been outstanding this postseason averaging 28.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.4 APG, and 2.1 SPG at 52.5 FG%. However, no other player is at 15 PPG, and the Heat have 32.1 3PT%. Miami relied utterly on Butler to create shots for himself and his teammates, while typically excellent shots have been disappointing. The Heat fails to win this series by relying on Butler so much because they face a dominant, lethal defense that obliterates the opponent’s strengths. Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo have struggled with their individual offense against the Celtics this postseason, and Jimmy Butler is not on their level. Miami needs to get hefty contributions from others because even two creators won’t be enough to break these Boston defenses. Irving/Durant and Holiday/Giannis couldn’t beat the Celtics so Miami needs a team effort here.

Butler and Adebayo aren’t stretching the ground and they won’t be able to get quality shots without Herro, Strus, Vincent and Tucker keeping the defenders on the rim honest. Herro has a terrible split of 42/27/91, which isn’t even close to good enough. Miami’s bench is superior to Boston’s, and that advantage can help reduce or strengthen any lead. If the heat bench struggles, Boston’s starting lineup will take over the series. Herro’s shot creation from dribbling is paramount to their success, so he needs to get back to regular-season form and shred the opposition. Miami can win Game 1 if they defend the three-point line, pin Butler’s defense on Tatum and resume their regular-season perimeter shooting. The tools are there, but this series will be a monumental duel.

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