Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals Preview Capsule


Preview capsule for the Boston-Miami Eastern Conference finals that start Tuesday:

No. 3 BOSTON CELTICS (48-24, 8-3) vs. No. 5 MIAMI HEAT (44-29, 8-1)

Season series: Celtics, 2-1.

Schedule: Game 1 is Tuesday; Game 2, Thursday; Game 3, Saturday; rest of series TBD.

Story line: The NBA will have a new champion and the winner of this first-of-its-kind Eastern Conference finals will have a chance to be it. With Miami ousting league-leading Milwaukee and Boston outlasting defending champion Toronto in the last round, this is the first time neither the No. 1 nor No. 2 seed reached the East finals since the NBA went to the 16-team playoff format in 1984. The No. 5 Heat are bidding to become the lowest-seeded team in the NBA Finals since the New York Knicks were No. 8 in 1999.

Key matchup: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown vs. Jimmy Butler. Tatum showed every bit of his blossoming game in the deciding contest against Toronto, finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Brown averaged 26.3 points in the final three games of the series. But now Butler, a defensive stopper on the wings, can take turns trying to cool whichever one has the hotter hand.

Injury watch: Gordon Hayward is expected to be available at some point in the series after spraining his right ankle at the start of Boston’s sweep of Philadelphia in the first round.

Numbers of note: Miami is 5-2 all-time in the Eastern Conference finals, winning the last five. … The Celtics are in the East finals for the third time in four years. … Butler scored 25 or more points in the second half twice in the series against Milwaukee. … Boston is allowing 100 points per game in the playoffs, tops in the league. Miami is second at 103.7.

Prediction: Heat in 7.

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