On Sunday night, Boston took down the defending NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, in dominating fashion. Like, 27 point win domination. Something that blows my mind though is that Boston is going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the 37th time in NBA history. The NBA has been around for 75 years. So, Boston has been to just a little less than half of the Eastern Conference Finals ever played. Boston has a 21-15 (58.3%) record in the Eastern Conference Finals all time.
However, their latest ECF matchup was against the Miami Heat in 2020, where Boston lost in the bubble in 6 games. Well, who would have predicted? Miami and Boston, with home court advantage now taken into play, will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since their matchup things have changed:
Jayson Tatum has developed himself into a guaranteed, top 10 player in the NBA and Boston no longer has Kemba Walker. Boston also has the defensive player of the year Marcus Smart, who has developed greatly since 2020. For Miami, Tyler Herro has progressed tremendously and additions Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo have improved Miami as a whole. And most importantly, Brad Wannamaker is now in free agency! Jokes aside, some things have changed.
However, Boston’s Tatum and Miami’s Jimmy Butler are still the clear cut, best players on the floor. Tatum is a scoring machine who averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal while putting up a lot of shots in 2022. He led the NBA in field goal attempts this year and still shot 45% from the field and 35% from 3. He’s also done well in the playoffs, averaging 28 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists while shooting 39% from 3 and getting a game winning buzzer beater in Game 1 of the 1st round.
However, Butler brings a different superstar approach, facilitating and defending. Of course Butler is going to get his 21 points a night like he did in 2022 but he also averages 6 assists and 1.6 steals. In fact Butler ranked 9th in steals this season. He’s considered the leader of the team. He’s put up some amazing numbers in this year’s playoffs that include 29 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 53% shooting from the field.
But, why will Boston win this series? Miami had the #1 record in the Eastern Conference this season and it would be surprising to see them disappoint now. Maybe that’s the case against any other team. But this is the Boston Celtics who have the #1 player in the series. Even though Butler does more things, quantity is different from quality. And Tatum’s quality of play beats out Butler’s quantity of abilities. So, knowing Boston has the best player on the floor, will they have the most success?
Miami’s paint game is a really underrated aspect of their game that could possibly shine. One of Miami’s strong suits is shooting. Well, when you have Duncan Robinson who shoots 37% from 3 and Herro who shots 40% from 3 , it makes sense. But, Boston’s #1 ranked 3pt defense will come into handy, especially with perimeter defenders including Smart, Grant Williams, Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, if Miami shines from 3, more opportunities will open up in the paint and I’m not 100% sure if Robert Williams, despite being high in advanced metrics such as PER and Value of Replacement, can keep up with Bam Adebayo’s offensive abilities. I don’t think they will get great paint opportunities, but Miami should try to get them. If they do, it can be a key difference in the series.
Unlike what I think the Mavericks should do against the Warriors, I think Boston should have the game plan of taking away a bit of every star, and let the bench beat them. I mean, Boston has amazing depth so this move could work. Using the perimeter defenders I mentioned on Butler, Herro, Lowry and Oladipo and using Robert Williams and Al Horford in the paint could win them this series. And it will. However, I think it will be low scoring. Boston has a lot of offense talent but more on defense. Same for Miami. Playoffs usually equals tougher defense but the defense in this series will put offensive fans asleep for a while!
I expect Boston to take this series in 6, get revenge on Miami and most likely play Dallas (as I predicted ) and have the most important change since their matchup in 2020. Instead of Butler domination, Boston will have the best player on the floor with Tatum, making the other changes seem slim!
But something that won’t change, Boston will go to the NBA Finals…again!
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