Time for our staff predictions. Who ya got?
Jeff Pratt: Boston wins 4-2. Miami is a strong defensive squad but they don’t pose as much of a threat offensively as the Nets or Bucks. The Heat always come to play, but the Celtics feel like a more complete team from top to bottom, and they’re playing better basketball right now.
Adam Spinella: Celtics in 5. Respect to the Heat, their defense and the veterans on their roster. But this is a Celtics team that is humming, has its role players peaking in terms of confidence and is deeper without a weak link.
Jack Simone: My gut is telling me to pick the Celtics in seven, but I’m going to go with six. The reasoning? I don’t think the Celtics lose a game in Boston. They’re going to have to win a game on the road, and if I had to guess, that’ll be in Game 1 or 2. And if that were to happen, and the Celtics go 3-0 at TD Garden, Boston in six is the result. That being said, do not sleep on Miami. They were the best team in the East for a reason and they are very well-coached. Milwaukee was a struggle, but the Heat will be, too. They deserve all the credit in the world. This will be a battle.
Trevor Hass: Celtics in 6. The Celtics have more talent, the best player and the personnel to bother the Heat. They’re similar teams in many ways, and the Heat are one of only a few opponents in the NBA that can match Boston’s physicality, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are simply too locked in right now to be denied. Milwaukee was the huge hurdle, and now the Celtics are ready to take that elusive next step. This series absolutely won’t be easy, and could certainly go 7, but the Celtics will wear Miami down and find a way to prevail. Also, you best believe that 2020 series is on their minds. They want some revenge in the rematch, and they have an excellent chance to get it.
Will Bjarnar: Celtics in 6. Defensively, the Heat are the best remaining team in the playoffs… aside from their opponent in the Conference Finals. I’d take Boston’s offense any day, even if the box scores from this series end up looking like Pistons-Celtics from the late 80s. I’d also take their defense, given what it was able to do against Kevin Durant in round one and Giannis in Game 7 of the semis, despite his innate ability to “get his,” no matter what. This feels like a series on par with the Milwaukee one in physicality and unsettling offensive stretches — there will be a night when Miami has an 18-point lead on the Celtics and players start to look around wondering whether there is a legitimate lid on the basket. But there’s also part of me that doesn’t fully trust Miami’s win over a Sixers team that was in shambles before their series began, nor a Hawks team that essentially saw Trae Young lose all offensive ability before Game 1’s opening tip.
I’m not saying I don’t trust the Heat to have a real impact on Boston from the jump. They’re the number-one seed in the conference for a reason; they remained that way throughout the season for a reason. They have skill across the board, the kind of leadership in Jimmy Butler that every championship team requires, and a defensive anchor in Bam Adebayo who can turn a series by meeting someone at the rim at the opportune time. I expect Tyler Herro to improve his shooting in this series; I expect to see Duncan Robinson again, too, and he’ll probably have a night where he scores 33 on 11/15 shooting from deep — in 15 minutes. This is a scary opponent almost based solely on the fact that their road doesn’t compare to Boston’s; they’re still here, aren’t they? And they have home-court advantage for a reason, no?
But Boston is humming. The Celtics are playing more connected than a Celtics team has in almost 15 years. (I’ll let you do the math on that one.) Anything feels possible for this group. Miami feels like the natural next step in finishing the job.
Nets knocked out the Celtics in the 1st round 2021, Celtics beat them in the 1st round.— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) May 15, 2022
Bucks knocked out the Celtics in the 2nd round in 2019, Celtics beat them in the 2nd round.
Heat knocked out the Celtics in the ECF in 2020, ... to be continued
Neil Iyer: Celtics in 6. The quick turnaround somewhat concerns me, but Boston has been the best team in the league since late January, and I don’t see this Heat team slowing them down. Miami is a cohesive unit that plays hard and executes on both ends, but the Celtics have the talent advantage. They just took down the defending champions – a team I believe is better than the Heat – and in a few weeks, Boston will make its first finals appearance in 12 years.
Michael Pearce: Celtics 4-1. This is the first series where the Celtics have the best player overall, although round 1 between JT and KD was close. Surviving Milwaukee and winning 2 straight - convincingly - with their backs against the wall should provide this team a massive momentum boost against the Heat. I know it’s a quick turnaround from the last series to this one, but I don’t think it will hurt the Celtics, considering how strong they looked in games 6&7 against Milwaukee.
Keith Smith: Celtics in 6. They’ll steal one on the road and that should be enough. These aren’t the “still finding their way” Celtics the Heat saw in 2020. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are all grown up now and they’re stars. Yes, Miami will make them work, and the games may be tremendously ugly rock fights, but Boston going through the Brooklyn-Milwaukee gauntlet will help them here. And the Heat haven’t seen a defense like the Celtics have. That will be the difference in a hard-fought series.
Jeff Clark: I’m going with Celtics in 6. I’ll pat myself (sarcastically) on the back for picking the Celtics in 7 against the Bucks. Giannis terrified me and they were the defending champs. In this series I’m kind of terrified of Coach Spolestra and I have a healthy respect for “Heat culture.” But these two teams aren’t the same two teams that met in the ECF 2 years ago. The Celtics have the defenders to slow down Jimmy Butler and they are better equipped to put a body on Bam. Ultimately I trust the Celtics offense to get buckets more than the Heat.
Bobby Manning: Allow me to zag and give the Heat the respect I didn’t in 2020. The Celtics are a completely different team than they were then, but the Heat are the same gritty, shape-shifting, well-coached squad that gave Boston trouble then, and in their last meeting in Boston. Robert Williams is back, and if he’s himself and Marcus Smart gets back to the floor in a timely manner I like the Celtics in 6 like My colleagues here. If there’s any injury trouble, look out for another frustrating and worrisome seven-game battle that goes right down to the wire. I believe in the strides made by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown over the past two years, so I would be surprised if the Celtics lose. If they do, they’ll have beaten themselves.
Mike Dynon: Celtics in 6. The rapid transition from Bucks Game 7 to Heat Game 1 will be challenging, but these Cs can handle away games: they’re 4-1 on the road in this postseason (the only defeat being a two-point loss at Milwaukee). I believe the Celtics will do no worse than splitting the first two games in Miami, then will win both in Boston for a 3-1 lead. After the Heat save face in Game 5, Ime Udoka’s crew will close it out in Game 6 at home. Jayson Tatum will be the first winner of the league’s brand-new Larry Bird Eastern Conference Final MVP Trophy.
After watching what Tatum has done over the last five months, I have to believe his impact will be the key to Boston taking the series. Tatum is far better than he was two years ago when the Heat defeated the Celtics in the bubble playoffs. This time, Deuce’s Dad should outplay Jimmy Butler, which will make all the difference in the outcome.