And then there were four. The conference finals are just around the corner, which means franchises are getting closer and closer to the Larry O'Brien Trophy. That is the case for the Boston Celtics, who are trying to win the title for the first time since 2008. With their series against the Miami Heat starting on Wednesday, it is time for some Celtics Game 1 bold predictions.
Boston went 57-25 in the regular season, finishing as the No. 2 seed in the East. That represented a six-win improvement compared to the previous year and also earned the team the second-best record in the league, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks at 58-24.
The Celtics are coming off a seven-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers. After being down 2-3, they bounced back with two wins, closing out the series 4-3 on Sunday with a 112-88 victory.
On the other side of the matchup, Miami went 44-38 in the regular season, earning the No. 7 seed in the East. This represented nine fewer wins compared to 2021-22. The Heat officially clinched a postseason bid by defeating the Chicago Bulls in the Play-In Tournament.
In the previous round, the Heat defeated the New York Knicks in six games.
This will be the third time in the last four years that the Celtics face the Heat in the conference finals. This could result in another thrilling series that could create many memorable moments.
With all that in mind, here are some bold predictions for the Boston Celtics for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
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3. Boston holds Jimmy Butler to at most 45% from the field
There is no secret that Jimmy Butler has been crucial to Miami's success in recent years. His impact was felt even more during this regular season, especially when he missed multiple games as he recovered from an injury. Miami ended up going 9-9 without him.
The six-time All-Star averaged 22.9 points per game, his best mark since joining the franchise, while grabbing 5.9 rebounds and dishing out 5.3 assists per game. He notably shot a career-best 53.9% from the field.
In the postseason, Butler is recording 31.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists plus 1.7 steals. He is making 52.7% of his field goals, 36.1% of his 3-pointers, and 79.2% of his free throws.
So far in the playoffs, Butler put up some historic performances. That includes scoring 56 points against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. He then had 42 to close out the series.
While he is putting up some good numbers, his efficiency went significantly down from the first to the second round. After shooting 59.7% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc against the Bucks, his numbers went down to 43.2% and 11.1%, respectively, versus the Knicks.
The bold prediction is that Boston will guard Butler very well, especially with Smart. Expect the Heat star to shoot at most 45% from the field.
2. Jayson Tatum goes off with a 30-point double-double
As for the Celtics, they will also need everything they can get from their stars. Most notably, Jayson Tatum will have to continue his dominance from the regular season and the end of the series versus the Sixers.
The forward ended up earning his fourth consecutive All-Star selection. He was also in the MVP conversation throughout the season as he finished in the All-NBA First Team.
In the playoffs, Tatum is recording a team-best 28.2 points, 10.6 boards, and 5.2 assists. He also has over a steal and block per game. He is shooting 45.3% from the field, 35.9% from beyond the arc, and 86% from the free-throw line.
Tatum is coming off a record-breaking performance in the series versus the Sixers. He scored 51 points on Sunday, setting a new NBA record for most points in a Game 7.
Should Tatum be on an inspired night, Boston will be in a good position to win this one. The bold prediction is that he will finish the game with a 30-point double-double.
1. Celtics take Game 1
Since this is a rematch from previous years, the expectations are high for this series. Boston had a strong overall season while Miami has been a pleasant surprise from the Play-In Tournament.
According to FanDuel, the Celtics are the favorites to win Game 1. Currently, the spread is -8. For comparison, the spread for the Western Conference Finals opener is -6 in favor of the Denver Nuggets against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The bold prediction is that this should be a close one. Both Boston and Miami will have their moments, alternating the lead with many clutch baskets and big stops. Still, the Celtics should use the TD Garden to their advantage and will win Game 1. With this result, Boston will have a great opportunity to open a 2-0 lead before even going on the road in this series.