The #3 Boston Celtics and the #5 Miami Heat are both four wins away from a berth in the NBA Finals, and only eight wins away from a championship. The Eastern Conference Finals begins without the top two seeds after the Heat knocked out the Greek Freak and the #1 Milwaukee Bucks, and the #2 Toronto Raptors were eliminated by the Celtics in seven games.

Boston Celtics Miami Heat East Finals NBA Playoffs
Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo defends Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown. (Image: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

The Heat are 8-1 in the postseason, which includes a four-game sweep of the #4 Indiana Pacers in the first round. The Heat manhandled the #1 Milwaukee Bucks and needed only five games to end their quest for an NBA title.

The Celtics are 8-3 in the postseason, which also includes a first-round sweep. The Celtics didn’t really break a sweat against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

#3 Boston Celtics (48-24) vs #5 Miami Heat (44-29))
  • Tip-off: 3:30pm PT
  • Point Spread: BOS -1.5
  • Total: 209.5 o/u
  • Money Line: BOS -120 / MIA +110
  • Series Odds: BOS -130 / MIA +105

DraftKings updated its recent NBA playoffs series odds. The Celtics are -130 odds to win the Eastern Conference Championship while the Heat are +105 to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics are 7/2 odds to win the NBA championship, while the Heat are 5/1 odds to win the title.

Boxed Kemba, Hayward Return?

Brad Stevens rides his starters hard, and the primary four average 39 minutes per night after they lost Gordon Hayward to an ankle injury. Hayward isn’t expected to return before the NBA Finals. He participated in drills, but has yet to go full speed in practice.

“As far as predicting a timeline, I have no idea,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “But I feel like he’s made good progress and will play eventually.”

The Celtics are a three-headed monster on offense with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker taking turns on who will be the big dog on any given night.

Tatum leads the Celtics with 25.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Brown averaged 21 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this postseason. Walker averages 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game.

The Raptors threw up a box-and-1 against Walker in the last two games of Eastern Conference semifinals. Walker, who averaged 24.3 ppg in the first round, averaged 9.5 points in Game 6 and Game 7 against Toronto’s box-and-1. The Raptors held him to just five points in a double-overtime thriller in Game 6. Walker shot only 2-for-13 from 3-point range in his last two games against Nick Nurse’s defensive curveballs.

On the defensive end of the court, Marcus Smart’s primary job will be to contain Jimmy Butler. The rest of the Celtics know they can’t leave anyone open behind the 3-point line. The Heat hit 38.5% of their treys and will make you pay for any lapses in defense.

Jimmy Buckets, Spo, and the Heat

Thus far in the postseason, Butler demonstrated an uncanny ability to score just enough points for his team to win every night. When they needed him to provide a big punch, Jimmy Buckets erupted for 40 in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks. In other games, he quietly scored 13 points, but got the ball into the hands of the hot shooter that night.

Butler leads the Heat with 21.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.1 steals per game this offseason. He averaged 23.4 ppg against the Bucks.

Erik Spoelstra is no stranger to deep runs in the playoffs, which often requires making game-to-game adjustments as well as in-game tweaks. Right now, Spo has his best squad since LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavs.

“Spo is an awesome coach,” said Dragic. “He has a lot of playoff experience. So I know that he’s going to prepare us well and we’re going to be ready.”

Dragic, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro are the trio of spot-up shooters who will give the Celtics’ perimeter defenders a good workout. Dragic averages 21.1 ppg in the postseason as the Heat’s second-best scorer.

Bam Adebayo is the Heat’s unsung hero. He gets down and dirty in the trenches, averaging 16.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Adebayo also leads the Heat in assists with 4.8 dishes per game coming into the Eastern Conference Finals.

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