Heat vs Celtics: The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. The Heat took down the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games. The Celtics held off the Toronto Raptors to win in seven games, knocking out the defending champs. So it will be the No. 3 seed vs. the No. 5 seed in the ECF for the first time in what seems like forever. Each side has a strong core of players with a few superstars, so we aren’t getting shorted by this series at all. Jimmy Butler vs. Jayson Tatum should be exciting.
Here you’ll be able to find all the information you need for the series, including how to watch each game, betting odds for the series, recaps and scores, plus NBA DFS analysis. We’ll also be updating with any relevant news and injuries. We’ll post the schedule for the series once it’s announced.
When the Miami Heat opens the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, the Heat will be the fresher team after a six-day break in between series.
That will be different for Miami, which played each of its three regular-season games against Boston on the second night of a back-to-back set.
But then again, so much will be different for the fifth-seeded Heat and third-seeded Celtics when they open the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.
Heat to face Celtics in Eastern Conference finals. Here’s an early look at the matchup
SEPTEMBER 11, 2020 11:49 PM
Boston, which has three days to prepare for the conference finals after winning Game 7 of its second-round series over the Toronto Raptors on Friday, is the only Eastern Conference team that beat the Heat multiple times in the regular season.
Boston won the season series 2-1 over Miami, but Heat players and coaches say it’s hard to base much off those results because so much is different about the two teams entering the East finals. Back-to-back scheduling, injuries and different rotations are just some of the variables that were involved in their regular-season matchups.
“You almost can’t draw anything from those games because there are so many moving parts that are different than they are now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Saturday’s afternoon practice at Disney. “Of course, both coaching staffs will continue to dive into all that. But that’s something that really stuck out to me when you start diving into the film. Somebody has always been missing, multiple people in each of those games. At the end of the day, we’re a totally different team, certainly than the first time we played them in December. And they’re a much different team.”
In the teams’ first meeting of the season, the Heat fell to the Celtics 112-93 on Dec. 4 at TD Garden in Boston.
Guard Marcus Smart and forward Gordon Hayward did not play for the Celtics in that game because of injuries, and Goran Dragic missed the contest for the Heat because of a strained groin. Also, Justise Winslow, who has since been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, played 31 minutes for Miami and Meyers Leonard was still in the Heat’s starting lineup.
In the teams’ second meeting of the season, the Heat lost to the Celtics 109-101 on Jan. 28 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
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That game did not include Celtics star Jayson Tatum (right groin strain). Also, James Johnson and Dion Waiters, who have both since been traded, were in the Heat’s rotation while Leonard was still in his starting role.
The Heat’s only win over the Celtics came in the teams’ third and final meeting of the regular season, when Miami picked up a 112-106 victory over Boston on Aug. 4 during seeding play at Disney.
Jimmy Butler was unavailable for that contest because of right ankle soreness, but both rosters and rotations looked closer to what they do entering the East finals with Jae Crowder in the starting lineup.
“Yeah, everybody is on an equal playing field here,” Spoelstra said of not having to play the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back for the first time this season. “You’re getting an appropriate amount of rest. You’re getting right to the competition every other day. That’s the best way, I think all of us enjoy that type of format.”
But there is one takeaway Dragic has drawn from those three regular-season meetings with the Celtics.
“We already know they’re going to play tough. They’re a really physical team,” Dragic said. “We know they’re going to switch a lot. Like I said, we just need to prepare ourselves and try to execute our game plan. From there on, it’s definitely going to be different than the regular season. I didn’t play in Boston, Jimmy didn’t play in the bubble. We didn’t have a complete team when we played against those guys. But we know it’s going to be hard.”
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Much like the Heat, the Celtics feature scorers all over the court. Boston had five players average double-digit points in the regular season — Tatum (23.4 points per game), Kemba Walker (20.4), Jaylen Brown (20.3), Hayward (17.5) and Smart (12.9).
“I still think Giannis doesn’t have as much help as Tatum,” Dragic said of the difference between building a game plan for Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tatum. “If you look, he has got Kemba and Brown. [Tatum] is the leader of that team, no doubt. We need to prepare for him. But we cannot just throw out the whole defense at him and forget about other guys.”
The NBA has announced dates for the first three games of the Heat-Celtics series, with Game 1 to be played Tuesday at either 6:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. The contest will begin at 6:30 p.m. if a Game 7 is necessary in the Los Angeles Clippers-Denver Nuggets series.
Game 2 will be Thursday with the time still to be determined and Game 3 will be Saturday at 8:30 p.m. All East finals games will be on ESPN.
“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.”
Butler said this season’s Heat-Celtics playoff matchup doesn’t compare to the ones from the Big 3 era.
“To tell you the truth, I think those teams were way better than the teams that we’ve got now,” Butler said with a smile “You’re taking about having D-Wade and ‘Bron and C-Bosh. Those are some top-five players. I think the Heat now are just stuck with me. I think I’d rather have D-Wade. But looking at it now, I think it’s fun as it is a rivalry.”
As for when Heat president Pat Riley told Celtics president Danny Ainge to “shut the f— up and manage his own team” in a statement released by the team in March 2013, Butler said: “The back and forth between coach Pat, it doesn’t surprise me. I love it. And that’s why we are who we are. Because the head of our snake, him, he’s like us.”
Heat assistant coach Octavio De La Grana, who initially was not among those who traveled to the league’s quarantine campus for the resumption of the season, recently joined the team at Disney. He cleared the NBA’s quarantine that’s mandatory upon arrival and was with the team for Saturday’s practice.
Spoelstra now has his full coaching staff with him in the bubble.