The matchups for the NBA Conference finals have been set. This round of the playoffs should be just as entertaining as the semifinals, which had two series go the full seven games before deciding a winner. Tuesday will feature Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the Boston Celtics visit the Miami Heat.
Defense will Define Series Between Celtics and Heat
The Celtics and Heat are two of the best defensive teams in the NBA and have both succeeded in limiting the production of some of the biggest stars in the league during these playoffs. Miami completely shut down Trae Young of Atlanta in their first-round series to win in five games. Likewise, Boston successfully limited the production of Kevin Durant in the first round and Joel Embiid in their second-round series against the Sixers.
The big story for Boston in Game 1 is they could be without NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart for tonight’s matchup after he sprained his foot in the last game against Philadelphia. He is listed as questionable on the team injury report. Miami could also be without their defensive stopper, P.J. Tucker, who is also questionable for Tuesday’s game with a calf injury.
Repeat of 2020
The last time these two teams met in the conference finals was in the 2020 playoffs in the NBA bubble. The Heat advancing to the finals to eventually lose to the Lakers. A win for Boston in this series will put them in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. They last won a championship in 2008. However, they can surpass the Lakers for the most in league history with a title in 2022, which would be their 18th.
The primary mission for the Celtics tonight is to steal a victory in Game 1. This would establish their dominance from the very start. They’ve had a more difficult path than the Heat to make it to this point, and their top-ranked defense will be a problem for Miami to overcome. Jimmy Butler has stepped up his game at home, where Miami is undefeated in the playoffs. On the road, he’s shooting just 43% in the postseason, and will have to be the guy they look for when they need to score.
Miami will win Game 1 on their home court to take an early series lead.
NBA Offers Up Surprises
There were a couple of surprises in the West, as the top two seeds were eliminated in the last round. Miami and Boston represent the two best teams in the east and begin their conference finals series tonight.
The Warriors and Mavericks will play Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday. This comes after Dallas blew out the Phoenix Suns in Game 7 of the semifinal round. Golden State is looking for their first appearance in the finals since 2019, when they lost to the Toronto Raptors.
Their last championship was in 2018. They are now the favorites to win their fourth title since 2015 after the Suns were eliminated from contention.