The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics meet again in the NBA Playoffs, but in an entirely different situation as while they usually duke it out in the Eastern Conference Finals, this time it is in the first round. Both teams have formed an intense rivalry throughout the years with different sets of players going back to the early 2010s.

But even looking at recently, this upcoming playoff series will mark the fourth time in five years Miami and Boston will battle in the postseason. However, some may look at this not as competitively as other series with the Heat suffering brutal injuries to Jimmy Butler who has an MCL sprain and is out for several weeks and Terry Rozier who will miss another week with a neck issue.

On the other hand, Miami has positive momentum heading into Sunday afternoon after handling business against the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament despite not being at full strength. Boston though has been arguably the best team in the league, maybe one of the best squads in the history of the NBA on paper in terms of what they've been able to accomplish.

There is no doubt the Heat have their backs against the wall once again, but if there's one thing certain about this team, they relish and embrace being the underdogs and have prevailed in those circumstances before. With that being said, here are our predictions for the Miami Heat taking on the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs and if they will be able to compete:

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Jaime Jaquez Jr. filling the void of Butler as much as possible

Miami Heat guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (11) drives to the basket against the Chicago Bulls in the fourth quarter during a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

With Butler out for the foreseeable future, the torch will be passed to Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. as he ran away with the opportunity Friday against the Bulls. While Jaquez is his own person, even he has said in the past how he wants to model his game after Butler and the similarities are clearly obvious.

He has shown this in the regular season when Butler was out, but Miami is going to need a replica of Friday where he scored 21 points against the Celtics and what a way to be introduced to the playoffs then a matchup against the Celtics. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said that Jaquez is way better than he was November since he's adapted to other teams including him on their scouting report.

“He's gotten a lot better,” Spoelstra said. “Right before we shut him down. He started to appear on everybody's scouting report. And that's a sign of respect. I think early on in the season, he was just playing freely. I don't think anybody was scheming against him and he took advantage of all that, you'd have to be a mature and skilled player to be able to do that. Things changed and then hiss health kind of for forced them to take a step back.”

“But where he is now, I don't care about what his stats are, what kind of numbers he's putting up, he's much better than where he was in November,” Spoelstra continued. “He can read defenses, he can see the the next layer of the defense, his understanding of our defense system is much better. I think it's passing is really improved. And we're pretty grateful for that because we're going to need all that now, in particular with Jimmy being out.”

Tyler Herro being versatile

While Jaquez is sure to step up in a huge way, no one on the Heat arguably has more pressure than star Tyler Herro. He had a middling game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first play-in tournament game Wednesday where he was inserted as the featured player after Butler was hurt and was inefficient shooting the ball.

Herro came back with a vengeance Friday against the Bulls and besides being the player drove the offense leading with 24 points, he also was the facilitator and playmaker as he had nine assists to go with 10 rebounds. He will be huge going into the series agains the Celtics where a prediction will be that the 24-year old will be consistent in making each game close as Spoelstra talks about what he's seen from Herro.

“I'm always feeling like our guys are going to go off and seize the moment. You know, Tyler is a competitor,” Spoelstra said after Friday's win. “So he is always going to bring a great mindset to the game and I think that's part of competition. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't, how you respond to it and how you keep on showing up the next day and to the next opponent, the next challenge, I think that's what makes or breaks people in this league. And we needed a performance this from him tonight and he did it on all levels. Defensively, he was a playmaker for us. He played off the ball for us. He knocked down shots for us and they created stuff at the end of offense when we needed shotmaking. So he did it all tonight.”

Heat bench bringing the physicality needed for the playoffs

Besides the starters starting the game effectively, the second unit and the rest of the bench have to keep up the intensity. When facing a team like the Celtics, there is little to no room for error so the bench will be way more important than ever for Miami.

Fortunately, the Heat have been known for their depth the past few seasons, especially with players like Caleb Martin, Haywood Highsmith, Kevin Love, and and even a new addition in Delon Wright. While offensively will be crucial, Miami's second unit excels on the defensive end of the floor, especially with Highsmith and Wright and even with the former, he's had success against Celtics star Jayson Tatum as he's held him three for 20 from the field since the 2022-23 season.

Even besides Tatum, Boston has an excellent team of stars like Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday, and others. The Heat's speciality in dirtying up the game will be key to the Heat having some sort of chance in this series, especially from the bench as Spoelstra talks about what those players offer to the team.

“I mean not only Kevin [Love], but what Delon [Wright] and H [Highsmith] are doing now. There's so much fun to watch in what they do, and I hope that basketball aficionados can really appreciate what they bring to the game and none of it is statistical, but they're dynamic defensively,” Spoelstra said. “Our team really appreciates what they do, they do all the dirty work. And you know it kind of inspired to make more efforts defensively I just enjoy watching them compete and making an impact on the game. They're winning players and so much of league ends up being about that final number on the box score. They're winning basketball players.”