Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics reacts to a play with teammates Jayson Tatum #0 and Robert Williams III #44 of the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors during Game Three of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 08, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. Elsa/Getty Images


  • Oddsmakers believe the Miami Heat's Cinderella run ends against the Boston Celtics
  • The Celtics and Heat have faced each other in three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals
  • The Celtics' talent plus Joe Mazzulla's coaching is likely enough to eek out a series win in six games

The Eastern Conference Finals will see bitter rivals face each other for the right to come out of the East and challenge for the NBA title as the second-seeded Boston Celtics take on this year's Cinderella team in the form of the Miami Heat.

Oddsmakers are heavily favoring the Celtics to win the series as BetMGM has them as minus-500 favorites while the Heat are viewed as plus-375 underdogs.

Boston overcame a James Harden-sized scare in the second round as they came back down from a 3-2 deficit to eventually win the series in Game 7 thanks to Jayson Tatum's 51-point explosion.

As for the Heat, the superhuman guard that is Jimmy Butler continues his rampage in the postseason that culminated in a six-game triumph over the New York Knicks despite not having the services of Tyler Herro, who broke his hand in their five-game elimination of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Helping Butler carry this team are undrafted gems Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson, while veterans Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love provide some much-needed leadership to round out the rotation.

NBA fans with the sharpest of memories would remember that these two teams have been featured in three of the last four conference finals matchups, but a lot of things have changed since the 2020 season in the Orlando Bubble.

That season, the Celtics were being led by Brad Stevens who ultimately fell in six games.

Last season, Ime Udoka was the head coach in Beantown and overcame the Heat in a nail-biting seven-game thriller to face the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.

This time around, Boston is being headed by Joe Mazzulla after Udoka was fired in the last offseason for having a workplace affair.

No head coaching turnarounds have been made for the Heat as Erik Spoelstra's sharp basketball mind remains on the sidelines since taking over the franchise in the 2008-09 season and deserves all the praise for leading this team to an improbable conference finals appearance.

Taking a look at the rosters alone, the Celtics certainly have the more impressive squad as Tatum will be backed up by longtime co-stars Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown while having the benefit of Robert Williams III and Grant Williams roaming inside the paint and the backcourt duo of Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White.

But as the Heat has proven thus far, their willingness to grind out games and pick up victories despite having a relatively depleted roster cannot be counted out.

Butler took on the Herculean task of carrying this team on his shoulders, but as is in all fairytales, such stories have to come to an end at one point or another.

The coaching battle between rookie head coach Mazzulla and the silent mastermind that is Spoelstra will certainly tip the scale of the battle in either side's favor, especially when it comes to the mid-series adjustments they make.

The Heat may have captured the hearts and minds of NBA fans the world over with their performance in the postseason, but logic dictates that the more well-rounded and deep Celtics team should be enough to see them return to the NBA Finals.

Game 1 tips off later tonight at 8:30 PM ET on TNT.

Series prediction: Celtics in six.

Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler
Head coach Erik Spoelstra and Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat look on against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at FTX Arena on January 15, 2022 in Miami, Florida. Michael Reaves/Getty Images