By: James Tillman
What’s up NBA fans? We have a not so conventional Eastern Conference finals matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. Before we discuss the two ball clubs vying for a spot in the NBA Finals, we will look back at how both teams got to this point.
As you know, the Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA for the second straight season. Not only that, they were the best defensive team in the league as well. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent them from being knocked off by the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals in five games.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors finished with the second-best record in the eastern conference despite missing several key rotational players during the season. Although they gave the Celtics all they could handle, they eventually fell short in seven games, thus setting up the conference finals matchup we have before us.
Eastern Conference Finals Betting Preview: Defense Will be the Key to the East
Although today’s game is geared toward how well teams perform from an offensive standpoint, I’m going to break down how both teams have performed on the defensive end of the court. First, we’ll look at the Celtics. During the team’s seven-game set against the Raptors, they held the Raptors to 45 percent shooting or less in six of those seven games.
Additionally, the Celtics are allowing 100 points per contest, which is the top mark in the league during the postseason. Furthermore, Boston is limiting opponents to 40.5 percent shooting from the floor and a stingy 30.5 percent from beyond the arc. As you probably guessed, they lead the league in these categories as well.
Now, let’s discuss what Miami has been doing during the postseason. For starters, the team is second in scoring defense, yielding 103.7 points per contest. The Heat are ranked sixth in opponent overall shooting (44.5 percent) and fifth in opponent shooting from 3-point range (34.8 percent).
Miami held the top-seeded Bucks to 43.5 percent shooting or less in three of the five games and the team is ranked fourth in steals with eight per game. Simply put, this series has the potential to be a defensive gem and it wouldn’t be surprise if both teams struggle to top the century mark on a nightly basis.
Both teams have multiple players that can step up at any given moment. With that in mind, one of the keys to this series will be whether the Heat (who are ranked second in 3-point shooting in the postseason) can be efficient against the Celtics’ top-rated defense against the long ball. If Miami can continue to play at the level it has played at through the first two rounds, they will win the series in six or seven games, but the margin of victory from game to game will be no more than five to seven points for either team.
(Editors Note: The Heat are up 1-0 in the series after a come-from-behind 117-114 OT victory in Game 1 on Tuesday Night)