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Playoffs 2020

NBA Playoffs 2020: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics series preview

The Eastern Conference Finals are set.

After eliminating the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons. They are set to meet the Miami Heat, who are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014.

With the No. 3 Celtics facing the No. 5 Heat, it's the first time in league history that the Eastern Conference Finals don't feature either of the conference's top two seeds, and we're here to set you up for what is sure to be an entertaining series.

NBA.com is your destination for complete coverage of every series from now through the end of the NBA Finals.

Series Schedule

All times are still to be determined.

  • Game 1: Tues Sept 15 Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 6:30 ET, ESPN, SN360
  • Game 2: Thu Sept 17 Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 7 ET, ESPN
  • Game 3: Sat Sept 19 Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:30 ET, TNT
  • Game 4: TBD Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, TBD
  • Game 5*: TBD Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, TBD
  • Game 6*: TBD Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, TBD
  • Game 7*: TBD Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, TBD

Season Series

Result: Celtics won 2-1

Best game: Jan. 28, 2020 - Celtics 109, Heat 101

Best performance: Kemba Walker (Dec. 4, 2019) - 28 points (9-17 FG, 6-11 3FG), 7 AST, 4 REB, 2 STL

The first meeting between the Heat and Celtics this season came in early December, as Miami travelled to TD Garden with hopes of taking Boston down.

That was far from the case.

Down both Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart, the Celtics were led by 31 points from Jaylen Brown (on 10-for-20 shooting) while Kemba Walker added 28 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Jayson Tatum was the only other Celtic to finish in double figures, scoring 19 points despite shooting just 6-for-19 from the field and 2-for-12 from deep.

For Miami, it was a lot of Jimmy Butler and not much else. Butler led all scorers with 37 points while shooting 12-for-18 from the field and tying a career-high with six made triples. Outside of Butler, the Heat scored just 56 points and shot 8-for-28 (28.5%) from beyond the arc.

In late January, Boston travelled to AmericanAirlines Arena, where it would earn a 109-101 win despite being without Tatum.

In Tatum's absence, it was Hayward that led the way with 29 points (on 10-for-14 shooting) and nine boards while Brown added 25 points (on 10-for-16 shooting) and five assists. Walker struggled to get going, scoring 16 points (on 5-for-19 shooting), but did manage to dish out eight assists and pull down four boards.

Miami was led by 23 points off the bench from Goran Dragic while Butler added 20 points and six rebounds but couldn't find his 3-point stroke as he did in the first meeting. In fact, the Heat shot just 9-for-37 (24.3%) as a team from deep.

The third and final meeting between these two teams came just over a month ago during the seeding games of the NBA restart.

Without Butler in the lineup, Bam Adebayo (21), Duncan Robinson (21) and Dragic (20) combined to score 62 points in the Heat's 112-106 win over the Celtics.

In this one, 3-point shooting was the difference as Miami shot 15-for-43 (34.9%) from beyond the arc while Boston was limited to just 10-for-33 (30.3%) shooting.

The Celtics were led by Tatum, who scored 23 points (on 6-for-11 shooting) while Brown turned in an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double despite shooting 9-for-23 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep. Walker, who was still on a minutes restriction at the time, added an efficient 15 points by shooting 4-for-7 from 3.

Key Storyline: Fatigue, minutes played and depth

While the Celtics were grinding out a seven-game series with the Raptors, leaving everything they had on the floor, the Heat were relaxing poolside for a handful of days as they awaited their Eastern Conference Finals opponent.

As is, Boston's bench is already shorter than Miami's. When you add in how taxing that previous series was, the Heat are setting themselves up nicely against a fatigued Celtics team.

Take a look at the total minutes played breakdown by each team's key players.

2019-20 Playoff Minutes Played
Total Minutes Played Celtics Heat Total Minutes Played
413 Walker Dragic 312
419 Smart Herro 291
426 Brown Robinson 237
433 Tatum Butler 318
304 Theis Adebayo 318
Crowder 270
Iguodala 188

This is where the return of Gordon Hayward could be monumental for Boston. (More on that below).

The Celtics exerted every bit of energy they had in the tank to get past Toronto. Can they dig even deeper to get past Miami and reach the NBA Finals?

Four Players to Watch

Gordon Hayward

This is more of keeping an eye on if Hayward will be able to play.

Suffering a Grade 3 sprained ankle in Boston's first playoff game on Aug. 17, Hayward was ruled out for four to six weeks. After leaving the NBA's campus in Orlando for a brief period of time, Hayward has returned to the bubble and has been rehabilitating his injury, ramping up his workload in anticipation of returning to action.

He was spotted on the court prior to the Celtics' Game 7 against the Raptors - a good sign for Boston.

In two games against the Heat this season, Hayward averaged 22.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 55.6% from the field.

He would add much-needed fresh legs to a thin Boston lineup.

Bam Adebayo

The Celtics frontcourt has been a talking point the entire season, and that won't change against the Heat and their All-Star centre.

Adebayo notched a double-double in two of his three meetings with Boston this season, although the Celtics were able to hold him to just eight points and seven rebounds in their final contest back in January.

Adebayo has been a monster these playoffs, stuffing the stat sheet with 16.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

Duncan Robinson

Through nine playoff games, Robinson has hit 24 triples at a 39.3% clip.

There's no doubt that Robinson is one of the league's best shooters and when he gets hot, it opens things up for the rest of Miami's offence. He went for 21 points in the Heat's lone win over the Celtics this season.

Marcus Smart

Smart did more than just step up in Boston's Conference Semifinals series with the Raptors. He put together a couple of the best performances of his career to help his team advance.

Smart scored 21 points to give Boston a jolt in their Game 1 win, knocked down five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and even had the first triple-double of his career in the Game 6, double-overtime thriller.

If Hayward returns to the lineup, can Smart continue to make the impact he has these playoffs?

Picks and Predictions

Gilbert McGregor: Celtics in six

Kyle Irving: Celtics in six

Scott Rafferty: Celtics in six

Carlan Gay: Celtics in seven

Alex Novick: Heat in seven

Yash Matange: Heat in seven

Stat Breakdown

Copy: Boston vs. Miami
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