Sunday, June 26, 2022

Heat find high-seeded underdog in their dream scenario vs Celtics in Eastern Finals

That’s exactly what the Miami Heat wanted, exactly the sort of thing that put a smile on forward Jimmy Butler’s face after Monday’s practice at the FTX Arena.

No, not just the homecourt advantage, which will be against the Boston Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals that opens Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

No, not taking the No. 1 seed into action.

Rather, seeds of doubt.

Like the lower seed, the road team, the Celtics are being favored by almost all bookmakers.

As different power ratings go up, the Celtics have a greater chance of emerging as the 2022 NBA champions.

“What I love most about this team,” Butler said, “isn’t paying attention to what anyone else chooses, because we know we can win. Those are the people whose I want to fight with

“We’re gonna fight, and we’re going to come out on top. I think it’s going to be really fun and really interesting.”

Considering it’s a Celtics-heated, it hardly has any other choice, whether it’s a dramatic 2020 Eastern Conference of teams, Disney World winning the heat in a quarantine bubble, LeBron James heading to the TD Garden and letting the Celtics spirits through his 45 stealing with A one-point performance in Game 6 of the 2012 pre-Finals saw Heat president Pat Riley telling former Celtics general manager Danny Ange to STFU because, well, just because he could.

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“I’ve heard with Boston a few times over the years,” veteran Heat power forward PJ Tucker said of his first taste of the Heat—Celtics. “But we have the will to win, anyway, no matter who we are going to play. We worked hard all year to get to that moment.”

Because of that, coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t want the next two weeks to be about historical perspective, but about what’s already been accomplished… and what’s still to come.

“We have a big goal,” he said, “and on the way to those goals you’re going to play against really good competition and that’s what Boston is all about. They’ve established a really strong culture, really good habits, both sides of the court.

“He’s got eight wins just like us. And if you’ve got eight wins this time around, you’ve done some really good things.”

For the Heat, this means leaving the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers behind. For the Celtics, this meant eliminating the Brooklyn Nets and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks with a Sunday Game 7 victory in that former semifinal.

For both teams, it meant a grinding, enduring, committed defensive effort that also sidelined Trey Young, Joel Embiid and James Harden by the Heat and Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo by the Celtics .

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“Pat is probably going to really enjoy this,” Spoelstra said of the defensive culture relay that was established with the franchise more than a quarter century ago. “It is like a throwback series. And both the teams are really on top of their game.

“It should not be a series where any team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on the rock-solid team defense. ,

No, Spoelstra said, nothing like the Heat-Nix, during the days when Riley was still patrolling the Heat sideline.

“It is different; the sport is different,” said Spoelstra. “I would never compare it to the physicality of those series. That was closer to football; it would be basketball.”

But, yes, arguably any team has experienced a higher quality of competition than this level of experience.

“We were the two best teams for most seasons in the past,” Spoelstra said, “and it’s fitting that we’re meeting in the conference finals.”

So, yes, a highly seeded underdog.

It’s as if Spoelstra couldn’t have asked for a better scenario – the opposition backed out, with Game 7 at home in need of the Heat.

“Our guys love to compete and love to challenge,” said Spoelstra, “love big challenges.” And that’s what we’re facing in Boston.”

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Nation World News Desk
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