KEY POINTS

  • The Boston Celtics are primed for a showdown against the Miami Heat
  • Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will all have big roles to play
  • The Heat's depth could pose a problem for the Celtics throughout the series

New champions will be crowned at the conclusion of the topsy-turvy 2021-22 NBA season after the Boston Celtics enforced their will over Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks to eliminate them in seven games.

The Celtics’ next biggest challenge is to get past a Miami Heat team that snuffed out the Philadelphia 76ers on the other side of the bracket.

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart continue to serve as the core of the Celtics and their level of play has been simply amazing to watch.

Tatum and Brown, averaging 27.6 and 22 points respectively in the semifinals, will be the keys towards breaking down Heat’s defense led by Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

Smart will also be pivotal in leading their defense that found new life once the calendar turned to 2022 while also avoiding costly mistakes such as his ill-fated layup attempt in the closing moments of Game 5 where he was stopped by the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday.

Cutting down on such mistakes became a priority for Smart and to his credit, he has done well in doing so to help his side secure an Eastern Conference Finals berth.

As for the Heat, taking out a Sixers squad that benefitted from the presence of James Harden was a massive task that they were more than up to doing.

Butler rocked the Sixers to the tune of 27.5 points during the six-game series and even had some words for his former organization.

Defense has always been the calling card of the Heat and they have been able to get the most out of their depth chart while not shelling out so much on their finances.

Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, P.J. Tucker and the resurgent Victor Oladipo all had their roles to play in eliminating the highly-favored Sixers, with Oladipo shining the brightest in Games 4 and 5.

Flush with key contributors from both sides, the Celtics and Heat are a matchup that few expected to see in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it is a welcome change of pace to have teams that are ranked in the top ten in both offense and defense per 100 possessions.

With an NBA Finals spot and the Eastern Conference crown up for grabs, both squads are going to put their best foot forward in this series that has the potential to go seven games.

Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat reacts after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90 in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at Wells Fargo Center on May 12, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images