2020 East Finals Preview

What we can expect from the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics in their 2020 Eastern Conference Finals battle.


Keys for the Celtics

With about a minute remaining in Boston’s game 7 win over the defending champion Toronto Raptors, Normal Powell was streaking towards the basket for a layup. His two points would have tied the game up at 89. Powell went around Marcus Smart and rose up to lay the ball in the basket. That’s when The Cobra struck. Smart jumped with Powell and swatted his attempt off the backboard with his left hand. It was a play emblematic of the entire series in that each possession was a battle until the end.

With series wins against Philadelphia and Toronto, this Celtics team seems ready for the challenge that is the burgeoning Miami Heat. Boston is a mixture of established and rising stars. Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward are looking to play on the biggest stage for the first time in their careers. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are looking to avenge their loss in the Conference Finals in 2018. Yet they all have one thing in common: they’re hungry for more. This team will not settle for anything less than a championship and they are ready to take the next step. Here are the keys to Boston winning the 2020 East Finals.

Health and Rest

At some point, the Celtics will welcome Gordon Hayward back into the lineup. Hayward suffered a sprain in Game 1 of their first-round series against Philadelphia. Gordon has had terrible luck with injuries since he put on a Boston jersey but his return is crucial. As I mentioned in my post before the playoffs started, a healthy Hayward allows the Celtics to play in a multitude of ways. His 17 points per game average will be needed against Miami but his playmaking ability is arguably his greatest skill for the Celtics.

Another factor will be fatigue. In the Toronto series, the starting lineup played a staggering amount of minutes. This Celtics core is young but the previous 7-game series could end up taking it’s toll if this series against Miami goes the distance as well. If the Celtics can create a lead against Miami, it will be important for them to shut the door early and get some much-needed rest.

3rd Quarter Productivity

The Celtics didn’t win a single 3rd quarter against Toronto. And blowing leads has been a problem all season. Toronto hung around all series because of the Celtics’ inability to put them away. If they do the same against Miami, the result could be worse than a couple of late second losses. When Miami gets hot, they are a dangerous and deadly team. Milwaukee saw that first hand. Boston will need to preserve leads and keep the Heat on their heels because once Miami gains steam, they’re a tough team to stop.

Defense

Defending Miami’s shooters and Bam Adebayo will be paramount to a Celtics series win. Forcing Jimmy Butler to score and hold the ball may be the Celtics best move. Butler played great in the first matchup of the season against Boston. He tallied 37 points and hit 6 threes but the Heat got blown out. The Celtics could opt for a similar strategy and leave Brown and Smart alone on Butler island.

In that case, everyone else would need to stick to shooters and keep the ball out of Bam’s hands. If Theis can deny Bam the ball and keep him off the offensive boards, his impact will be severely limited. Adebayo may be the most talented player on the Heat but his value is predicated on Miami’s shooters and cutters moving around him and Bam making the right reads. This also means that the Celtics cannot allow Miami’s shooters to get hot. Letting Smart harass Herro and keeping Tatum glued to Duncan Robinson will be critical.

Series X-Factor: Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown was incredible against Toronto. He’ll have to be even better against Miami. Tatum has established himself as the go-to player for this team and I expect Kemba to bounce back and have a better series. However, Jaylen needs to continue trending upward if the Celtics are going to win this. He will likely be tasked with guarding everyone from Jimmy Butler to Bam Adebayo and his versatility on that end of the floor is invaluable.

However, his scoring will just as vital to Boston’s success. During the regular season, the Celtics were 13-0 when Jaylen scored 25 or more. Aside from one game in the Toronto series, that has held true in the playoffs as well. Brown has not shot well from 3 (28% in 11 games) but he continues to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. If his three’s start falling in this 2020 East Finals, he will undoubtedly be the x-factor.

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3 responses to “2020 East Finals Preview”

  1. Blackbeird Avatar
    Blackbeird

    The tics are playing good ball, but I think the lack of a productive heyward will further tip the scales to red hot Miami!

  2. Big Bird Avatar
    Big Bird

    Initial reaction says Celtics in 5/6 games but the Heat are HOT! They’ve taken advantage of this ‘no home court advantage’ situation more than any other team! And the gut said Pacers over Heat…. and Bucks over Heat… so it’s hard to discount the Heat! Still…sticking with the Celtics in 5/6 games.

  3. burt jolly Avatar
    burt jolly

    good info. not a Boston fan but like them to win the series.

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