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Bean: My biggest concern about the Celtics entering ECF

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Since the NBA resumed, it was NBA Finals or bust for the Celtics.

If you didn't think that until recently, fine, but Milwaukee didn't scare me, Toronto was overrated and nobody else really mattered, unless the Sixers finally figured it out. 

If all went according to plan -- and that included Kemba Walker's knee holding up -- the Celtics should have won the Eastern Conference. Now they're four wins away and their opponent isn't even any of the aforementioned teams. 

It's the Heat, a team the Celtics beat in both their pre-stoppage meetings. Boston had a better offensive rating and defensive rating than Miami this season. It also has the better superstar in Jayson Tatum over Jimmy Butler.

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Yes, the Celtics had a horrible loss in the bubble against a Butler-less Heat team, but on paper, this is an extremely winnable series for the Celtics.

I'll say up front I'm picking the Celtics in five, but there's only one thing (other than health, of course) that I can see getting in the way of the Celtics getting to the finals.

It isn't one guy or matchup. It isn't a stat, because those work in Boston's favor. My only fear is intangible. 

That should seem insane given that we should all think this team has excellent chemistry and some strong leaders.   

Yet as much of a struggle as it is to devote another second to that second-round series against the Raptors, the moment looked a little big for the Celtics at points. Walker -- if you say "box and one" one more time I'll lose it -- struggled in Games 6 and 7. Even when Tatum came up huge in grabbing an offensive board and getting fouled after Grant Williams missed both free throws late in Game 7, he missed one of his foul shots to leave the door open for Toronto. 

 

There were other plays, like Tatum's throwaway late in regulation of Game 6, but the Celtics got through it. They're where they're supposed to be. Yet if you're a team playing them, maybe you think they can be rattled.

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That really has to be Miami's only hope, because the Heat have nothing to lose. Few if any saw them getting to the conference finals, whereas the Celtics' chances were probably closer to 50-50. 

All things considered, I'm not afraid of the Heat. I respect the hell out of Butler and Bam Adebayo, both All-Stars this season, and am impressed with Goran Dragic playing arguably the best basketball of his career at age 34. Miami has more top-end talent than the Raptors do, but neither team has the volume of star power to match Tatum, Walker and Brown.

Plus, Miami doesn't defend as well as Toronto, even if Erik Spoelstra likely is game-planning to get Walker off his game the way the Raptors did. 

The Celtics should share this mindset going into the series. If things get weird, fluky or otherwise close, though, what happens? Have the C's been strengthened by surviving the Toronto scare or does the group get a little tense?

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Because they defeated the Bucks so quickly, Miami doesn't have these questions. The flip side of it is the Heat haven't really dealt with adversity this postseason (they're 8-1), so maybe once they're punched in the mouth for the first time, they crumble. 

But they're the ones that's been doing the punching, rattling or whatever else you want to call it. No one's put them on their heels the way the Raptors eventually did with the Celtics.

The combination of a team that nearly blew it last round and a team that's got nothing to lose could be dangerous.