Since the year of the pandemic, little has stopped the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat from meeting in the conference finals.
When they kick off Game 1 of their most recent postseason matchup on Wednesday, it will be the third time in the past four seasons they have cheered on the East by definition. It would also be Boston’s second consecutive win after winning seven games last year.
That the Heat and the Celtics are playing at the moment this season can no longer be seen as a surprise.
Despite the familiarity, Celtics star Jaylen Brown says the Miami team is different from the team they beat last year.
“This is not the same team as last year. Jimmy (Butler) is still Jimmy, and Spo is still Spo,” Brown said, referring to Erik Spoelstra, the longtime Heat coach. “But we have to make sure we’re looking for everyone else.”
Others include NBA Finals veterans like Kevin Love, as well as Max Strauss, who has made tremendous contributions since Tyler Herro broke his arm in the first round against Milwaukee.
Breathing a sigh of relief after a grueling seven-game series against the 76ers, the Celtics acknowledged that the task of slowing down a team that has been as unstoppable as the Heat all starts with stopping Butler.
“He never gives up, he’s not afraid of anybody,” Brown said of Butler, who is averaging 31.1 points and a field goal percentage of 52.7% after the season in his career. “We should be ready for that challenge. We have good players and good spirit in our team, so it will be fun.”
The Celtics also have top-notch shooters. Jayson Tatum – who is averaging 30.1 points per game – is coming off a record 51 points in the last game against the Sixers, and has scored 30 or more points in five games since this season. Brown is averaging 26.6 points.
The rallying cry seems simple: Boston beat Miami in this round last year, and now it’s the Heat’s turn to turn the tables.
However, Spoelstra does not attach importance to this.
“I don’t see the need for it. I think it’s in the past. We’re focused on the challenge that lies ahead of us this year.”