After a much-needed rest, the time has arrived.
The Miami Heat now turns its focus on the Boston Celtics, who possess the one-way ticket to a spot in the NBA Finals. Meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012, the highly-anticipated rivalry from the past decade has once again renewed.
Once headlined by LeBron James and Paul Pierce now features Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Boston’s Jayson Tatum, two All-Star’s looking to advance to the biggest stage in basketball.
Similar to the previous postseason matchups, it won’t be easy for the Heat. Holding a 2-1 season-series on Miami, Boston, the No. 3 seed, is the only team in the East to have defeated the Heat twice in their 2019-20 campaign,.
And in the faces of many, that gives them an upper edge to move on.
As usual, that doesn’t phase anybody on the Heat.
“I don’t think that we’re the underdog,” Butler said. “I think we’re a really good team. We play together. Everybody knows our role. We just compete. We’re just competitors. So we’re not embracing being the underdog. I think we’re supposed to be here. That’s how we think of it. So, to me, to us, that’s all that matters. We’re not underdogs. We’re prepared.”
What makes the Heat so special?
Health. Prior to arriving at Disney’s World of Sports Complex. Miami never had a completely healthy roster, keeping them from reaching its full potential.
In terms of playing against Boston, the Heat hasn’t competed with its complete 10-man roster. Whether it be the absence of Goran Dragic or Jimmy Butler, or when Miami had yet to acquire Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, they’ve never had a unit like now.
Of course, lineups have changed too, as Meyers Leonard and Kendrick Nunn are no longer part of the starting five, and sometimes out of the rotation.
“You almost can’t draw anything from those games,” Spoelstra said. “… At the end of the day, we’re a totally different team.”
Still, regardless of Miami’s successful best-of-seven series’ prior to Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. (ESPN) tip-off, there’s something about the Celtics that presents a different vibe.
Whether it be their predominant scorers in Tatum and Kemba Walker, or X-factors in Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, the depth this team holds is similar to no other opponent they’ve faced.
Does coach Spo agree?
“You’re not expecting it to be easy,” he continued. “Boston is a really good team. They’re talented. They play the right way, they defend. Really well coached.”
With both teams matching up fairly well, it could lay in the hands of who out-coaches the other.
Only time will tell.