The Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 92-87 victory over Toronto in a classic Game 7 semifinal. The third-seeded Celtics will now take on No. 5 Miami for the opportunity to play for the 2020 NBA title.
The series should be a battle between two teams that don’t like each other all that much. There is a long history between Boston Celtics team president Danny Ainge and Miami Heat president Pat Riley. The two teams met once before – in 2011-12 – in the conference finals. Miami won 4-3.
Defense. And Kemba Walker. Boston has been playing outstanding basketball since resuming the season in Orlando. A big part of that has been Walker who had some knee issues prior to the suspension of the season. The time off helped Walker return to full strength.
Walker is averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. Jayson Tatum is emerging as a star with 25.3 points and 10.1 rebounds a game while Jaylen Brown quietly scores 21.0 points and grabs 7.6 rebounds. All three have been cashing NBA playoffs player props.
The Celtics have serious scoring talent, but then there is the defense. In a first-round sweep of Philadelphia, Boston gave up an average of 100 points per game. In the series with Toronto, the Celtics held the Raptors under 100 points in all four of their victories.
Boston is ranked first in defensive rating (102.7) during the postseason. Where the Celtics excel on defense is also Miami’s key – the three-pointer.
The Celtics ranked second in the league during the season in opponent three-point percentage (34 percent). In fact, Boston has ranked in the top six in the category in each season during the past decade. They are historically very good at defending teams that shoot lots of threes.
Why Miami Wins
Miami swept Indiana and then took care of the heavily favored and top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games. Jimmy Butler has been outstanding and, like Boston, the Heat defense has been very good in the postseason. Miami ranks fourth in defensive rating (105.4).
The key to Miami’s success is the three-pointer. Duncan Robinson is an absolute freak when it comes to shooting threes. He made of 46 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season. Guess how many NBA players have hit over 45 percent of 500 catch-and-shoot three-pointers in a season? One. Robinson.
The combination of defense and solid three-point shooting can lead the Heat to its first NBA Finals appearance since 2014.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.