Simulation: Who will advance between the Heat and Celtics from the ECF?


The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will begin their third Eastern Conference Finals series of the last 10 years with Game 1 set for Tuesday night at FTX Arena.

The Celtics advanced to the conference finals by sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the first round and beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the second round. The Heat eliminated the Atlanta Hawks in five games in Round 1 before dispatching the Philadelphia 76ers in six games in Round 2. 

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The Heat and Celtics last met in the playoffs inside the Orlando bubble during the 2019-20 campaign. Miami defeated the Celtics in six games to reach the NBA Finals.

How will this Celtics-Heat series play out? Our friends at Strat-O-Matic ran a simulation, and the results were quite interesting. 

Let's take a look.

Game-by-game breakdown

The Celtics got their split over the first two games in Miami, but the return home didn't go so well for Boston. The Heat won Game 3 and Game 4 at TD Garden to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. 

The C's staved off elimination in Game 5 in Miami and returned to TD Garden for Game 6, where they earned a massive 51-point win to force a Game 7 for the second consecutive series.

But unlike the second round, the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs with a 25-point loss in Game 7. Kyle Lowry led the Heat with 34 points in the clinching game, which is a surprising outcome given his hamstring issues throughout the playoffs. He's missed six of the Heat's first 11 games of the postseason and won't play in Game 1 on Tuesday night. This simulation has Lowry missed two of the seven games.


The Heat's victory set up a rematch of the 2006 and 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. In our simulation, the Mavs eliminated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

Notable Player Performances

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics in scoring at 29.9 points per game. He also shot an impressive 52.7 percent from 3-point range, while also averaging a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game. Jaylen Brown poured in 24.4 points with 6.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

Derrick White's offense improved, too. He averaged 10.3 points per game and shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range. 

Several of Boston's role players struggled throughout the series. Grant Williams was the Game 7 hero against the Bucks with 27 points and seven made 3-pointers. But in our conference finals simulation, Williams scored just 3.1 points per game and attempted only 1.7 3-point shots per contest. Marcus Smart (8.9 ppg) and Payton Pritchard (5.7 ppg) didn't provide a ton of scoring.

The Heat had three players -- Oladipo (19.7), Jimmy Butler (19.7) and Lowry (19) -- average 19 or more points per game. Bam Adebayo didn't have a great series, scoring 9.6 points per game pulling down 7.6 rebounds per game. The Heat more scoring depth overall, and that proved to be a major difference in the series.

NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat Game 1 begins Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET with "Celtics Pregame Live" ahead of 8:30 p.m. ET tipoff.