Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat
The NBA playoffs in the Orlando bubble have produced some huge surprises, and this Eastern Conference finals matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat is the biggest one yet.
The Heat shocked the basketball world by ousting Giannis Antetokounmpo and the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in five games.
Meanwhile, the Celtics survived a seven-game war against the defending champion Toronto Raptors to return to the conference finals for the third time in four years.
This series figures to be another fierce and competitive battle between two great teams. Here are all the important details to know for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown status for Game 1 unknown
The Celtics were able to edge out the Raptors despite being without one of their top players, Gordon Hayward, all series long. The All-Star forward has been out since he suffered an ankle sprain in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
After leaving the bubble to get treatment for his ankle, the latest NBA 2020 news is that Hayward is back and looks set to make his return in this series against Miami. However, it remains to be seen exactly when he will play again.
Aside from Hayward’s possible absence for the series opener, the Celtics also have another injury concern with Jaylen Brown, who appeared to hurt his groin during Game 7 against the Raptors. Brown was able to finish the game, but he might be limited physically moving forward.
Brown (21 PPG, 7.6 RPG in the playoffs) has been a vital player on both ends of the court for the Celtics, and it would be a significant blow to Boston if he can’t play up to his full ability in this series.
Tatum vs Butler star showdown
If Brown is limited, the Celtics will need to lean more heavily on Jayson Tatum against the Heat. Tatum was phenomenal in Game 7 against Toronto as he had 29 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists to lead Boston to victory.
The 22-year-old has had a fantastic playoff run thus far (25.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.3 APG) and has arguably been the best player in Boston’s first two series. The Celtics will need Tatum to continue that fine form and outplay his Heat counterpart, Jimmy Butler, who has been equally impressive.
Butler outgunned reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to help the Heat defy the NBA 2020 odds and knock out the Bucks. He is a proven clutch performer and will certainly not back down in his battle against the younger Tatum.
In a series that is expected to be closely contested, it could all come down to which star player shines the brighter.
Heat depth could make a difference
Of course, Butler didn’t bring the Bucks down by himself. It was a complete team effort as Miami’s supporting cast played their part.
The Heat have a rising star in Bam Adebayo and a proven veteran in Goran Dragic, who have both been outstanding in the bubble. Meanwhile, Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson did a lot of damage from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Heat should have a significant edge in bench production, with the likes of Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk, and Kendrick Nunn all capable of providing instant offence.
The Celtics don’t have the same level of depth as the Heat, which could pose them further problems in Game 1 if Brown is unable to play his usual number of minutes.
The Heat and Celtics will face off for just the third time in the playoffs. The Celtics won their first series against Miami 4-1 back in 2009-2010.
But the LeBron James-led Heat won their next two meetings. The most recent one came in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, which Miami won in seven games.
The Celtics won this year’s season series, 2-1, although Miami beat Boston in their one game in the bubble, 112-106, despite being without Jimmy Butler.
What are the odds?
The Celtics also have the edge in terms of the series and are 1.68 favourites to make the Finals. Miami are priced at 2.21.
The Asian Handicap odds for Game 1 are quite tight, though, with Boston only favoured by 1.50 to 2.50 points.
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE BASKETBALL STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.