Op-Ed: The Celtics have enough star power to beat the Miami Heat

Following the Boston Celtics thrilling 7 game triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics will face off against the team that last bounced them from the Eastern Conference Finals.

Two years ago the Boston Celtics were preparing to take on the Miami Heat in an attempt to advance to the NBA Finals. Fast forward to the year 2022 and the headline circulating the current Celtics is almost identical to the one above. Even the rosters boasted by both teams barely differentiate much from the teams’ rosters in 2020. With that being said, it would undoubtedly be unfair to call this series a replica of the past. This Celtics team is not like its predecessors and will look to prove that with a chance to represent the Eastern Conference on the line. The only roadblock that lays ahead of their quest for eternity is the gritty Heat squad that has the same goal in mind.

Why the Miami Heat can win

The very first word that comes to mind when I think of the Miami Heat is tough. Not only do they have a plethora of tough, spirited players that embody “Heat culture”, they have the talent to back it up as well. Forward Jimmy Butler appears to have returned to his bubble form, where he continuously dragged his talent-deprived team to overachieve and even pushed the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the NBA finals. He has been great in the playoffs so far, averaging over 28 points per game and showing the tenacity that made the little-known Marquette product into a household name. Guard Tyler Herro, recently named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, has been a reliable source of offense all year for his team. Though he has not been nearly as explosive in the playoffs so far, Celtics fans will never forget his 39 point performance the last time these two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals.

While Butler and Herro tend to shoulder much of the offensive load, almost every other player on the Heat’s deep roster tends to be a defensive star. Namely forward PJ Tucker, center Bam Adebayo and guard Kyle Lowry, though the latter is dealing with a hamstring injury that could force him to miss a good portion of the series. Along with Butler, the Heat have displayed the best defense out of any team in the playoffs, giving up an absurd 97.5 points per game. Though they have not faced a team with the offensive capabilities that the Celtics possess, this is a great team nonetheless. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has been one of the best coaches in the NBA for a long time. Playing in the Eastern Conference Final without a consensus top 10 player in the league only solidifies that claim.

Many Celtics fans went into the series two years ago with the idea that talent wins championships. Although the Heat did not end up hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the playoffs, they were undoubtedly the better team in their series versus the Celtics. If Butler can continue to score in volume at an efficient clip and he gets some support offensively, the Heat can once again move on to the NBA Finals. They are extremely well-coached and have a championship-caliber defense that will make it extremely tough on the Celtics’ offense. This group is battle-tested and has looked like the best team in these playoffs on many separate occasions. What they lack in star power, they make up for with their determination and team-oriented approach, giving them an undeniable chance of upsetting the Celtics.

Why the Boston Celtics can win

One thing that the Celtics certainly do not lack is star power. It may be time to crown forward Jayson Tatum the face of Boston, and more importantly, the best player left in these playoffs. The young and evolving superstar has taken his offensive arsenal and playmaking abilities to new heights throughout this season and continues to show poise in the postseason. His Game 6 performance in which he dropped 46 points on the road against the defending champions in an elimination game was the stuff of legend. Tatum has already been to a shocking three Eastern Conference Finals in his short time in the NBA but this is undoubtedly his best opportunity to obtain his ultimate goal; hoisting banner 18 in the rafters of TD Garden.

Speaking of the Garden, it may be time to retire a few other players’ numbers in the rafters as well. Center Al Horford and forwards Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams have all stepped up numerous times during this spectacular run and will continue to be vital for the team going forward. Their ability to knock down perimeter shots while also playing defense at a high level continues to impress and is all the more important when Tatum is being shown double teams at a consistent rate. Their three-point barrage versus the Bucks in Game 7 was impressive, but should not be classified as shocking by any means when considering the strides that many players have taken on that side of the ball.

Though the Celtics can certainly explode for big offensive outings, this team’s identity will never be on that side of the ball. Similar to the Heat, Boston’s coaching staff has implored its players to buy in on the defensive end, and it has taken this team to the next level. Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart continues to quarterback the team’s elite defensive unit which should only get more dominant as center Robert Williams III returns to action, ideally healthy. Both teams have the ability to switch one through five, leading many to believe that this series will certainly boast low-scoring games and 90s-esque physicality on both ends. 

It is mind-boggling to think that one could be writing about the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals after they got off to such a lethargic and putrid start to the season. If you had told someone in Boston that they would have a chance to be playing in the NBA Finals back in January… well it likely would have prompted a rather large chuckle and a suggestion to cut off the Sam Adams for the night. These Celtics have continuously proven fans wrong and now have a chance at redemption for their mishaps two years ago. 

The team’s core of Tatum, Brown, and Smart is the same one that lost in six games and simply got outworked in that same series. If the regular season and postseason are any indication, this team will not fall victim to the same team that took them down in the bubble. This year’s team is as talented as ever, but it is their depth and defensive versatility that will win them this series. Tatum must continue to be the best player on the floor and the role players must continue to thrive within their respective roles. The Heat believe that they will win against any opponent because they are tougher, smarter and more physical. They are in for a very rude awakening with these Boston Celtics. The penultimate round begins in Miami on Tuesday night.


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