When you get to this point in the playoffs, there’s very little that one team doesn’t know about another.
But any little nugget or tidbit of information that has a better-than snowball’s chance in hell of proving useful, has to be explored.
Which is why the Miami Heat will try and extract whatever (if any) useful bit of intel it possibly can from a pair of former Celtics -- Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk -- leading up to Tuesday’s Game 1 matchup with the winner of the best-of-seven series advancing to the NBA Finals.
Crowder, who played three seasons in Boston and was a key member of the 2017 team which lost to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals, arrived in Miami (from Memphis) as part of a three-team deal at the February trade deadline.
The veteran forward has provided a much-needed dose of toughness to the Heat lineup that has been one of the keys to Miami getting to the Conference finals faster than any other team in the Bubble.
Olynyk took his talents to South Beach after being part of that 2017 Celtics squad which advanced to the Conference finals behind a monster game from Olynyk, who had 26 points.
It was very much a mic-drop moment for the 7-foot Olynyk who would sign a four-year, $50 million contract with the Miami Heat that summer.
While it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a couple of former players on your roster who used to play for the most current team on the docket, it’s unclear how much -- if at all -- the Heat will benefit from having Olynyk and Crowder in terms of better understanding the current crop of Celtics.
“Their team is different,” said Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “Am I going to bring them in and ask them, ‘What kind of plays did they run for Isaiah Thomas? I don’t know if that’s totally relevant … what kind of misdirection hand-offs they were doing for Avery Bradley. I guess we could be maniacal and ask about those kinds of details.”
A more likely benefit for the Heat will be that both players understand the ebb and flow of the game when the stakes are this high.
Shortly after the Heat wrapped up its series with Milwaukee, Olynyk was asked about what he would tell his teammates who have never gone this far into the playoffs.
“It gets harder from here,” Olynyk said. “It’s gonna be a real, real grind. It’s going to be tough; really, really tough.”
Which is why the true value of having Crowder and Olynyk around isn’t because of their institutional knowledge of the Celtics, but the fact that they have the battle scars and big-picture understanding of where they are in the postseason right now and the challenge that comes with how to navigate that successfully.
“It’s definitely on another level,” Crowder said. “The whole playoffs, it’s wearing on you mentally and physically. It’s harder at this level.”
Which is why Spoelstra believes there’s tremendous value in having players on the roster who have been through those basketball wars previously.
“It’s important and that’s why we put together this group,” Spoelstra said. “We do rely on our young guys and need some veteran experience and poise to get you through those inevitable tough stretches during a playoff run. Our veteran guys have that experience but also have a great way of communication and connecting and accountability to our young guys; it’s unique.”