The Heat finally know who stands between them and a trip to the NBA Finals.
With a 109-81 annihilation of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday, the Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. Boston will face Miami in Game 1 on Tuesday at the FTX Arena in Miami at 8:30 p.m.
Whether the Celtics or the Bucks won, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it wouldn’t make much of a difference for the East’s top seed.
“At this point, whoever it is, both sides are familiar with each other just from the regular season and how much we’ve played against each team in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat and Celtics are no strangers to each other. The Heat edged out the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals in 2020 before falling to the Lakers in the NBA Finals in the COVID-needed bubble postseason near Orlando.
“To be able to play this team now, a similar type of makeup where they have Bam and Jimmy and the physical guys. They added PJ,” Celtics forward Grant Williams said. “They have a lot of toughness on that team and they shoot the ball well. We will have to be able to make sure and focus on our game plan against them and the scheme. … It’s going to be exciting to be able to play him against them.”
Miami played Boston three times in the regular season, losing two of three games. The Heat won the most recent matchup on March 30.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum has averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists against the Heat in those three games this season. In his 15 career games against Miami, Tatum averaged 20.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
“Just experience,” said Bam Adebayo. “I feel like that’s the most important thing. You start to pick up on a guy’s tendencies after playing with him year after year. And then you see them improve or they leave the next day, depending on his work ethic. You see guys progress in this league after two or three years of playing against each other. You get an idea of their game and how they play.”
Miami has an advantage over Boston by virtue of having time to recover. Miami finished its series against Philadelphia with a victory in Game 6 on Thursday, giving the Heat four full days to rest and prepare for the conference finals. Meanwhile, the Celtics will have to regroup and travel to Miami for the start of the next series on Tuesday.
“It’s important,” guard Tyler Herro said. “Between the Atlanta series and the Philadelphia series, we have a couple of days and now we have a couple of days until the next series. I think it is good for our group to rest for a couple of days, go into the facilities together, practice and prepare for the next series.”
Eastern Conference Finals Schedule
Game 1: Tuesday, May 17 — Boston at Miami, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Thursday, May 19 — Boston at Miami, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Saturday May 21 — Miami in Boston 8:30 pm (ABC)
Game 4: Monday, May 23 — Miami at Boston 8:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Wednesday, May 25 — Boston at Miami, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 6: Friday, May 27 — Miami at Boston, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: Sunday, May 29 — Boston at Miami, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
* if necessary