After surviving their seven-game series with the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics are set to open the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, a team that entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed but lost just once in the first two rounds.
After sweeping the Indiana Pacers, the Heat dusted the top-seed Milwaukee Bucks in five games and will be well-rested, as it has been a full week since they wrapped up the series Sept. 8.
With the series set to tip off Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., here is the tale of the tape for the two teams that will play for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Erik Spoelstra (567-392 regular season, 79-48 playoffs): This is the fifth time Spoelstra has led the Heat to the conference finals in his 12 years as coach, having done so four consecutive seasons from 2011-14, when he won back-to-back NBA titles in 2012 and 2013.
But those appearances came with the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the court. The roster has since been overhauled, centered around the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, with Spoelstra drawing rave reviews for the job he has done this postseason in particular.
Brad Stevens (318-246 regular season, 35-32 playoffs): Now in his seventh season, Stevens has led the Celtics to the playoffs six years in a row, and to the conference finals in three of the last four seasons, having lost in 2017 and 2018 to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the last of which went seven games. While Stevens has been lauded for his coaching, he is still looking for his first trip to the NBA Finals.
The Celtics have won 17 NBA titles, the most in the league, but just one in the last 34 years. They have reached the finals 21 times.
The Heat have won three titles, all in the last 14 years, and have reached the finals five times.
After going 41-24 before the season was halted in March, The Heat went 3-5 in the bubble. They entered the playoffs with a 44-29 record.
They averaged 112.1 points in their nine postseason games, and 112 in the regular season. But the defense has been stingier, with the Heat boasting a +8.4 point differential in the playoffs, compared with a +2.9 in the regular season.
After going 43-21 before the stoppage, the Celtics went 5-3 in the bubble to finish the regular season 48-24.
The Celtics averaged 113.7 points per game in the regular season, with a point differential of +6.3. They dipped to 107.6 points per game in the playoffs, but also limited their opponents defensively, with a +7.6 differential.
The Heat are averaging 37.1 3-point attempts in the postseason, up from 35.4 in the regular season, and are converting 38 percent. Former Celtic Jae Crowder leads the Heat with 8.3 attempts per game, hitting on 40 percent. Opponents are making 11.3 3-pointers per game against the Heat at 34.8 percent. Duncan Robinson has the most 3-pointers in league history for a player in his first 100 games. (He’s hit 280 in just 88 games.)
The Celtics also are attempting more threes in the playoffs, led by Jaylen Brown’s 7.8 attempts per game, for a team total of 36.3. They are connecting on 34.1 percent. Defensively, the Celtics are allowing 11.1 3-pointers this postseason, the fewest in the league, with opponents converting just 30.1 percent. Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart each rank in the top 10 in the league in contested threes this season.
Sneaky players to watch
Kelly Olynyk: After the Celtics decided not to bring him back upon signing Gordon Hayward in 2017, Olynyk signed with the Heat, but his role has been reduced this season as Robinson and Tyler Herro have seen increased playing time. He’s averaging 13.9 minutes, and has experience stepping up in the postseason, as he did for the Celtics in 2017 when he came off the bench and scored 26 points in 28 minutes of a Game 7 win over the Wizards.
Brad Wanamaker: The first guard off the bench for the Celtics is averaging 5.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 44.7 percent from the field in 17 minutes a game. He had a career playoff-high 15 points in the Game 5 win over over the Raptors.