Potential Celtic playoff foes: Miami
BOSTON -- Miami is a favorite destination for NBA players during the regular season. But in the playoffs? Not so much.
What they lack these days in star-studded talent they more than compensate for with gritty play that has them well positioned for one of the last two playoff spots, which could potentially lead to a first-round date with the Celtics.
Miami would be one of the tougher first-round draws for the C's, especially if they don’t have Kyrie Irving for some or all of the series. And Miami, which won the season series against the C's two games to one (with Irving playing all three games) will go into a series against Boston confident.
Here are some of the pros and cons for the Celtics if they were to begin their postseason journey against the Miami Heat.
PROS: C's DEFENSE VS. HEAT OFFENSE
You don’t spend most of the season leading the league in several defensive categories the way Boston has -- even with all the injuries -- unless you have a great defensive system in place. That’s not good for Miami, which has had problems scoring the ball all season. The Heat are 25th in the league in scoring, with 103.3 points per game. However, they are trending in the right direction when it comes to getting buckets. Since the All-Star break Miami has increased its scoring to 113.6 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NBA.
PROS: JAYSON TATUM
The 20-year-old rookie has carried an unusually high burden of responsibility for a team with a top-four record in the NBA, and that’s not likely to change especially if the Celtics face the Heat. In the three games against Miami, Tatum averaged 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from 3-point range.
PROS: LINE 'EM UP
If the Celtics get in a situation where they need to create extra possessions, they have plenty of options to choose from if they have to implement a Hack-a-Heat player strategy. As a team, Miami is shooting 75.1 percent from the free-throw line this season, 24th in the NBA. Since the All-Star break the Heat have been even worst, making only 73.6 percent of their free throws (27th in the league).
CONS: ERIK SPOELSTRA
When Brad Stevens steps into the building, Celtics fans have good reason to believe they will have the edge when it comes to coaching. Not this time. Like Stevens, Spoelstra has shown the ability to get the most out of the talent he has on hand, which has positioned the Heat to be playoff contenders in the years before, during and after the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era. He’s one of the better coaches in the NBA, which makes the usual coaching edge that Stevens enjoys more of a push in this series.
CONS: DWYANE WADE
One of the more overlooked parts of the mass exodus out of Cleveland at the trade deadline, was how it allowed Dwyane Wade a chance to return to Miami, which is really his true basketball home. Now, Wade -- at 36 -- obviously doesn’t dominate play the way he used to. But he can still have a night or two when he’s the best player on the floor. Having a player like that, knowing he has that championship pedigree to elevate his play when it matters, adds another element of concern for Boston.
CONS: MIAMI HEAT DEFENSE
No matter what’s going on with Miami in terms of scoring the ball, you can count on a Spoelstra-coached team being pretty good defensively. The Heat have spent the bulk of this season ranked among the league’s top 10 teams in several defensive categories. Miami has a defensive rating of 104.6, which is currently 10th in the NBA and is consistent with where they have been statistically since the All-Star break. Like most teams, the Heat have spent the last few weeks since trying to piece together a style of play that will give them the best shot at making a run towards the postseason while still playing good basketball. For Miami, it starts with defense.