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Celtics prepping for ‘dogfight’ in Eastern Conference Finals vs. Heat

Celtics have another difficult matchup ahead.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics just finished a grueling, seven-game series with the Toronto Raptors.

And now they are expecting another demanding matchup with even more at stake as the Celtics get set to take on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 1 tipping-off on Tuesday (6:30 p.m. EST).

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” said Kemba Walker. “We both have great opportunities in front of us and we both want it, so it’s going to be a war. Looking forward to it.”

For Celtics coach Brad Stevens, he is well aware of the challenge that is ahead. Miami is playing as good as its nickname suggests inside the Orlando bubble. The Heat have lost only once this postseason and that came in overtime.

Miami’s squad, led by star forward Jimmy Butler and a cast of versatile and athletic guards and wings, not to mention an experienced and underrated coach in Erik Spoelstra, is drawing rave reviews from Stevens.

“I just can’t tell you how exceptionally well-coached they are,” said Stevens, who knows a thing or two about coaching himself. “Probably the closest team in the East that we’ve seen to the (Golden State) Warriors with regard to their cutting and shooting.”

The Heat haven’t been afraid to launch it from deep during these playoffs and have done so with success, too. Miami has taken 37 attempts from 3-point land per game in the postseason and have converted on 38 percent of those tries. The shots from long distance have consistently fueled the Heat’s offense which has been kept under the century mark in the playoffs only once, and it scored 99 points in that contest.

Meanwhile, the Celtics defense anchored by Marcus Smart has been more than up to the task in its series wins over Toronto and the Philadelphia 76ers. In five of its 11 playoff games, Boston has surrendered less than 100 points and the Celtics will look to put forth that sort of defensive effort when trying to contain the Heat.

“For us, everything starts on defense,” Jayson Tatum said. “That’s where we’ve got to focus all our attention and energy.”

While their opponent is different, the Celtics are expecting the intensity to only go up with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.

“I know those guys are going to be ready,” Walker said. “But so are we. It’s going to be a fight.”