What is most underlined about this series? Who has the most at stake? And which teams advance to the NBA Finals?
Our experts debate those points – including a split decision as to who will win – and provide their key to the series.
NBA Schedule: Pre Finals Plus Game 7 on ESPN, Tuesday
1. What are you looking closely at for heat?
Tim Bontemps: Bem Adebayo has to be the best player on the court. In the matchup between these two teams at the Seeding Games, Adebayo destroyed the Celtics. Boston coach Brad Stevens tries to counter Adebayo’s size and strength, forcing him to a chess match.
Andre Snails: The drama of Adebayo. Jimmy Butler deserves the press he took, but plays Adebayo’s new-age big-man who makes the Heat Elite. Adebayo crossed the big Bucks’ boundary line at both ends. Likewise, in this series he needs to get beyond the small Celtic range and be the dominant man on the court.
Jorge Sedano: How Miami Defends This Boston Team They certainly can’t load up on Jason Tatum as they did on Giannis Entetoconampo. Jaylen Brown is great, and Miami struggles to defend at this point with Goran Dragic and Kendrick Noon, which should allow Kemba Walker to be more loose than Toronto.
Kevin Pelton: How much zone defense they play. Second Spectrum Tracking has not recorded a single possession of the zone in the playoffs, after Miami had more zone possessions than any other NBA team during the regular season. He would likely turn against Celtic, which saw a heavy dose of zone from the Toronto Rappers.
Tim McMahon: How good will drag be? The 34-year-old point guard has been starting and starring in the playoffs with 21.1 points and 4.7 assists per game. Dragic cooled off in the conference semifinals, shooting only 38.3% from the floor in the last three games. He scored at least 20 points in the Heat’s first six playoff games, the second-longest string of 20-point performances in his career.
2. What are you looking most closely at for the Celtics?
MacMahon: How will Daniel Thys deal with Adebayo? The Celtics don’t need Thies to put up big numbers, but they have to be a solid defensive anchor, and Adebayo presents unique problems as an elite finisher and playmaker. For this value, Thies was plus-33 in three matches against the Heat this season, but Miami still outscored Meyers Leonard and Adebayo in the first two meetings at center.
Bontemps: Can Walker Break Miami’s Defense? Walker had his way with the Toronto defense until a box-and-one was implemented by Rappers coach Nick Nurse. Walker, who returned to All-NBA form during the Boeing Games and playoffs, has been a game-changer for Boston.
sedano: How Boston’s 3-point defense competes against Miami’s 3-point offense. Miami is shooting 38% on 3s in the playoffs, and while Duncan Robinson is not productive, Miami’s threat of 3s is a big part of its offense. How the Celtics defend Robinson, Tyler Harrow and Miami’s 3-point attack will go a long way to determining Boston’s success in this series.
Pelton: How does Brad Stevens handle the possible reinvestment of Gordon Hayward Middleies. If Hayward is at war, how fast will Stevens’ hook be? And is he minutes away from Marcus Smart after Smart’s excellent series against Toronto?
Snellings: Smart game. When he is going long distances, it both spreads across the court and allows him to use his latent point guard skills to create drama for his teammates. Smart is also the leader of the perimeter defense and the team’s emotional leader, and his senility and ability to disrupt Butler will be the key to the Celtics’ effort.
3. What is most understood about this series?
sedano: Pat Riley vs. Danny Anging. The history between the two architects is bleak, with Riley coaching the Lakers and Engel playing for the Celtics. It also includes a 1993 scuffle between their teams (Knicks and Suns). Close f — and manage your team. He was the biggest whirlpool while he was playing, and I know that because I was against him. ”
Bontemps: Boston got here without Hayward, an ankle injury that injured him in the Celtics’ first playoff game, and is expected to regain. He provided 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 50/38/85 this season. Adding Hayward back into the mix would give Boston another tall, versatile player at both ends – and that would mean fewer minutes for Boston’s relatively thin bench.
Snellings: This defense of Thys, who finished second in the NBA in defensive Real Plus-Minus this season, behind only Rudy Gobert. His position and hands and ability to rotate and choke in the post are key to helping the opposing drive. He helped Brown limit Pascal Sikam to 38.2 FG%, and in this round he would have to slow down Adebayo and limit heat penetration.
MacMahon: Jay Crowder established himself as a quality NBA player in Boston, and he took it personally when the Celtics included him in the Kyrie Irving trade. He would love to be a part of booting his former team from Bubbles. Crowder was not the headliner in the Midgenson trade the Heat made with the Grizzlies – when Memphis ended the awkward Andre Igodala saga by sending them to South Beach – but he made an impact for Miami. The ability to play ahead of the Crowder allows Miami to go with a smaller lineup, and he is shooting 40% from 3-point range in the playoffs.
Pelton: The ability for both teams to contend for some time. With the weight of minutes played, the Celtics have the youngest rotation of any playoff team. And while the Heat’s rotation has been the sixth-oldest with veteran Goran Dragic as a starter replacing rookie Kendrick Noon, Miami’s cap flexibility and young talent basically mean a bright future.
4. Who has the most stake in this series?
MacMahon: No one has to tell Butler, who is celebrating his 31st birthday on Monday, how valuable this opportunity is for him. This is the first time in Butler’s career when he reached the conference finals. Butler, a five-time All-Star, has already boosted his reputation by playing such a prominent role in the success of the Heat. Taking Miami to the finals will be legendary material.
Snellings: Tatum has confirmed the leap we saw in the Toronto series. Butler is currently playing with home money – did not come into the season as a Heat contender. But there are expectations in Boston, and Tatum is there. By taking his team to the final at the age of 22, “Tatum” can be placed in a name field along with other superstars.
Bontemps: The Celtics, who may return to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade. This is the third time in four years that the Celtics have overcome it, but this is the first time they will be expected to win. If they do not, it can only be described as disappointment.
Pelton: Would it be wrong to call it a buck? If Boston comfortably handles Miami, it raises too many questions about the Heat’s series win over the Bucks. If Miami reaches the NBA Finals on the contrary, it is very easy to explain what happened as a product of running into a hot team at the wrong time.
sedano: Brad Stevens. His counterpart Eric Spoelstra already has two championships as head coach. Spoelstra is certainly looking to add to his collection, but he is more than a made-up man. Stevens is considered one of the game’s most innovative coaches. Coaching your team for the NBA Finals would validate the accolades and give the franchise a shot at the 18th NBA Championship.
5. Which team advances to the NBA Finals?
Bontemps: Boston is the better team. Miami is a tough-minded, well-organized group led by two All-Stars in Adebayo and Butler. But Boston is smart, perhaps the best player in the league to guard Butler, and Walker and Tatum are the most explosive offensive players in the series. It will be competitive and fun to watch, but my pick 6 has Boston.
MacMahon: 6. To the acclaim of Heat in Stevens, Spoelstra is the coach in the series who has proven that he can take the teams to the finals.
sedano: 7. Summer is rolling in Miami. Butler, Adebayo and Dragic have been stable leaders, and Crowder and Igodala’s joints were huge at the trade deadline. Miami’s sharpshooting also gives it an edge. Boston has an incredibly talented core of Tatum, Brown, Walker, Hayward and Smart, but Miami’s improved depth will prove to be much greater.
Pelton: 7. At the Celtics I still don’t have a good feeling for Miami about how good Miami is, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Heat win this series. However, I think the Celtics’ fleet of quality perimeter players should match up well with Butler and pose a challenge for defenders Miami was able to hide against non-threatening Bucks wings.
Snellings: 7. Both teams in the Celtics are full of patience, defensive hustle and heart. But the Celtics have slightly higher scoring talent on the perimeter, especially if Hayward is able to return and contribute. Adebayo and Heat Paint have the edge, but I expect Theis to be a factor. Tatum, Brown and Smart have enough to secure just one more series win.
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