The Miami Heat are back in the Eastern Conference Finals and preparing for a rematch with the Boston Celtics from the bubble in 2020. It should be a highly entertaining series between two fairly different teams, although both led by big names. As Game 1 tips off on Wednesday night, the Heat will be led by Jimmy Butler, who has dominated so far in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum will headline the Celtics squad, and he is coming off of a record-breaking 51 point performance in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers. It should make for a riveting Game 1, and overall a super intriguing 2023 Eastern Conference Finals.
In terms of the Heat, no one expected they would be playing on Wednesday night. They barely made it out of the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament, and then had to face the No. 1 overall seed in the Milwaukee Bucks. Unbelievably, they cruised passed the Bucks in five games and set themselves up with a matchup against the New York Knicks. Once again, they looked like a better team than their opponent, beating the Knicks pretty handily in six games. The Heat now face a Celtics team that albeit facing some adversity in this postseason, will be the toughest matchup for Miami so far. If the Heat want this series to go their way, they need to come out fast in Game 1.
There are an infinite amount of possibilities for how Game 1 plays out between the Heat and Celtics. However, there are three bold predictions in particular that will define Game 1 for the Heat. So, what are they?
Here are three bold Heat predictions for the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 vs. the Celtics.
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Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler drops 40
Like mentioned, Jimmy Butler has absolutely excelled in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Through two rounds, Butler is averaging 31.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per contest. These numbers are alongside a shooting split of 52.7% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc. Overall, Butler has been an efficient scoring machine, while also being the heart and soul on both ends of the floor. With the urgency of wanting to take a game on the road like the Heat did in the first two rounds, Butler is going to start this series with an extra intensity. When the final buzzer sounds, that intensity will have resulted in 40 points from Butler.
Jimmy Butler is no stranger to massive scoring performances in the postseason. In the 2023 NBA Playoffs alone, he has had multiple 40-point outings, including an historic 56-point showing in Game 4 against the Bucks. Those 56 points were the most in Miami Heat franchise playoff history, and the fourth most in the history of the NBA Playoffs. His scoring took a slight dip in the second round, but the magnitude of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals will bring those numbers right back up. It will all start in Game 1, as Jimmy Butler goes for 40 points.
Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown are stifled
Neutralizing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is the key to beating the Boston Celtics. It is easier said than done and is unlikely that the Heat will be able to do so in every game this series. However, Game 1 will see the Heat hold them both to under 20 points. The Celtics have struggled with consistency in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, posting multiple duds in both rounds so far. Tatum in particular has had his fair share of rough showings; Game 1 will be more of the same, as the Heat are just going to come out with more urgency.
The Heat have looked like a team with nothing to lose. After limping into the 2023 NBA Playoffs, they seemed to have adapted a care-free mentality, as the outside expectations were so low. This has allowed them to play confidently, and more importantly, freely. It has resulted in suffocating defense and a team chemistry that is necessary to win in the postseason. This urgency will be on full display in Game 1 and will be much more apparent in their play in contrast with the Celtics. Henceforth, they are going to keep both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to under 20 points.
Heat take Game 1 by double digits
Game 1 will be a punch in the mouth of the Boston Celtics. From the tip, the Heat are going to hound the Celtics on both sides of the floor. It will simply look like the Heat will want it more, which has been much of the case in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The Heat are probably the worst matchup for the Celtics given the effort they display and the relentless coaching of Erik Spoelstra. Dysfunction and lack of chemistry has looked like the kryptonite of the Celtics this postseason; this is the exact type of team that the Heat can take advantage of. Miami will do so in at least Game 1, taking the contest by double digits.
Jumping out to a 1-0 lead on the road does wonders for the Heat's chances of taking the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. There is no guarantee that a Game 1 victory would ensure a trip to the NBA Finals, but it would certainly put the Heat in the driver's seat. That is why they will come out with such great energy and trounce the Celtics from the beginning. It is not hard for the Heat to play with a sense of urgency, unlike the Celtics who have struggled with such all postseason. Game 1 by no means will dictate the rest of the series, but it will look much more in the Heat's favor after a double digit victory.