Three Heat storylines Celtics fans should watch in Eastern Conference Finals:

Will Celtics see Duncan Robinson? Three Heat storylines to watch in ECF originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston:

The scouting report on the Milwaukee Bucks was relatively straightforward: load up to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday.

But as the Boston Celtics quickly turn the page to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, things may get more complicated.

The Heat are a gritty, well-coached team that earned East’s No. 1 seed despite missing top players Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry for extended periods of time.

Forsberg: Will Boston’s defense be as effective against a more balanced Heat?

While they don’t boast anyone nearly as talented as Antetokounmpo, they’re a deeper team than Milwaukee that has gotten contributions from overlooked players like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and former All-Star Victor Oladipo to roll past the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers in the postseason.

The Celtics played the Heat not too long ago; Miami came into TD Garden and beat the C’s 106-98 late in the regular season on March 30. But several interesting developments have popped up for the Heat since that date.

Here are three Heat storylines you need to know as Boston and Miami get set for battle Tuesday night.

Note: NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of Celtics-Heat Game 1 begins at 7:30 pm ET with “Celtics Pregame Live.”

One of the NBA’s most lethal 3-point shooters played fewer than 19 minutes: total: in Miami’s series against Philly and was a healthy scratch in three of the six games. So, what gives?

While Robinson is a prolific outside shooter – only Buddy Hield has made more 3-pointers than Robinson (752) since the start of the 2019-20 season – the New England native and former Williams College star is not as prolific defensively.

Like Boston, Miami hangs its hat on the defensive end, so head coach Erik Spoelstra has shelved Robinson in favor of Max Strus, who’s a sturdy 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and has been an elite defender in the postseason (94.1 defensive rating ) while making 35.1 percent of his 3-pointers.

Celtics Talk: Grant Curry the Game 7 hero? Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine think C’s can beat the Heat in ECF |: Listen & Subscribe |: Watch on YouTube:

The Heat have shot just 32.1 percent from three in the playoffs, though, leading to calls for Robinson to get more run. The question is whether Spoelstra wants to shake up a rotation that helped Miami go 8-3 over the first two rounds.

Perhaps Spoelstra will seek to get Robinson minutes when Boston plays Payton Pritchard, but we can not see Robinson defending Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum for long stretches. Unless Miami’s offense really goes south, do not expect to see much of Robinson in this series.

How are the Heat winning without Kyle Lowry?

Lowry embodies everything the Heat are about – grit, hustle and unselfish play – but has been a virtual nonfactor this postseason.

The six-time All-Star has appeared in just two of Miami’s last eight postseason games due to a nagging right hamstring injury and is officially ruled out for Game 1. That seems like good news for the Celtics, but the Heat are 8-1 in the playoffs without Lowry.

How, you ask? Some credit goes to Gabe Vincent, an undrafted product of UC Santa Barbara who has taken Lowry’s spot as starting point guard and averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 assist over 24 minutes per game in the playoffs while playing strong defense.

The Heat have also gotten a boost from Oladipo, who appeared in just eight regular-season games but has hit double-digit points in four of his eight postseason games, including a 23-point effort in Miami’s clinching Game 5 win over Atlanta in the first round.

The Heat have adopted a “next man up” mentality all season to overcome injuries, and it’s paid off so far.

Is Jimmy Butler’s offensive success sustainable?

We buried the lead here: The real reason Miami has cruised through the playoffs is because Butler is averaging nearly 30 points per game (28.7).

The Heat veteran is shooting a ridiculous 52.5 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from three, well above his career shooting averages of 46 percent and 32.1 percent. Should we expect a regression to the mean in the ECF?

Butler’s track record suggests he gets better as the postseason goes on, Exhibit A being the 26.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.8 assists he averaged during the 2020 NBA Finals. But he’ll face a very stiff challenge in the Celtics’ defense, which is the best he’ll see in these playoffs by a wide margin.

Butler has a better supporting cast than Antetokounmpo, and the presence of Adebayo and Tyler Herro will prevent Boston from loading up too much on Miami’s star. But there’s a good chance Butler’s offensive numbers dip in what should be another low-scoring series overall. If the Celtics can prevent Butler from going off, they have a very good chance of winning this series.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.