By the time this gets in the paper, chances are I’ll be wrong. But I’ll say it anyway. My game one prediction between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat on Wednesday night (after our deadline): The Celtics by 15. We’ll go with 86 to 101.
Here’s why: Jason Tatum. The 25-year-old had one of the most incredible and exciting comebacks this past week in NBA playoffs history, and like most sports, basketball is about hot streaks. The Celtics are seemingly on a run at the moment with back-to-back, impressive victories in both Philadelphia and Boston.
A little bit of background if you haven’t been watching. The Celtics entered the playoffs as the number two seed in the East, second only to the mighty Milwaukee Bucks who have since been eliminated (by the Heat of course).
The Celtics, meanwhile, easily took down the Atlanta Hawks in Round one, and then the Philadelphia 76ers in Round two in a seven-game, gut-wrenching Round two instant classic. Beside our blood pressure levels, that series was something to behold. It was classic Celtics: Win by a lot in one game, only to seemingly not play hard the next game … and then when you think they’re done, storm back and barely win a game six in Philadelphia, before absolutely crushing in game seven at TD Garden.
But that’s in the past. And here we are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth time in six years (wow!). And it’s up against the Miami Heat, the last team in their way before the NBA championship series.
Why it’s good TV: The Celtics have played the Miami Heat three times in the Eastern Conference Finals over the last four years. The Heat won in 2020, the year of the pandemic when the NBA finished its season in a bubble in Florida; then the Celtics barely won last year in a seven-game series.
Boston seems like the favorite, but Miami is a tough team and they’re looking for some revenge.
Jimmy Butler is the Heat’s undaunted leader. He’s playing phenomenal basketball, as he does in every playoffs. In the era of Steph Curry, when the three-pointer reigns supreme, Butler lives for the 15-footer. He’s all about the mid-range jump shot and he’s not afraid to use the backboard — he’s old school.
Miami also has a good center/forward and two-time all star in Bam Adebayo. He can rebound with the best, and set a mean screen for Butler.
But what makes the Heat so good is their defense. They’re scrappy; they’re not afraid to dive for loose balls, or take a few elbows. If the Heat pull it off, it’s their grit that will win it. It’ll be Low scoring games, tight defense, and good coaching.
And that leaves us with your Celtics. Their game this year has been live and die by three-pointers and good defense. On the defensive end, they’re led by the tenacious and scrappy Marcus Smart. Smart has won the NBA’s hustle award something like three times, including this year, because he’s on the floor most of the time. There’s also center Rob Williams, whose nickname is the Time Lord because he can seemingly bend time when he’s swatting balls and stuffing opposing players. That man can jump.
And then, of course, you have Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum, arguably the best duo in basketball. Brown is a great one-on-one player. He can muscle through defenders, get to the hoop, but he’s also an excellent three-point shooter.
And Jason Tatum. We’ll say this. He played miserably for much of the 76ers series. We forgot that he was good, and all hope was lost. But at the end of game six, with the season on the line, and after missing what seemed like a thousand buckets, he hit one three pointer from the corner in the fourth quarter. It was a thing of beauty. A side-step three pointer landing with a perfect swish. And suddenly, you knew it was over. He had found his shot. And game seven, again with the season on the line, he scored 51 points. 51 points! The most ever by a player in a game seven in NBA playoffs history.
Streaks like that don’t just end. And that’s why I have the Celtics taking this series. It won’t be easy. And it will be a gritty, back-and-fourth series.
But it’s green all the way, baby. Let’s go!