3 keys to a Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Quarterfinals victory over Miami Heat

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Six
Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Six / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

It is now official that the Boston Celtics will take on the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs after an embarrassing effort from the Chicago Bulls in a 112-91 blowout in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

The Celtics enter this series as pretty heavy favorites, especially due to the Jimmy Butler injury against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Heat's first Play-In game. But anything can happen in the playoffs, and Miami is no stranger to first-round upsets.

If the Cs are going to make it to the NBA Finals, they need to set the tone early in the playoffs to create momentum for the following rounds. To do that, the Celtics will need to accomplish a few things against the Miami Heat.

Boston Celtics must shoot lights out of the ball from 3-point line

The Cs had a historic offensive season, largely due to the 3-point shot. They averaged the most attempts per game at 42.5, which is three more than the second-place Dallas Mavericks at 39.5 attempts while hitting 38.8% of those attempts. The only team that shot the ball better from deep than the Celtics was the Oklahoma City Thunder, at 38.9%.

When those shots are falling, the Celtics look nearly unbeatable. However, when they aren’t, that's when they find themselves in trouble. They are a talented enough team to win without otherworldly three point numbers in a game. So if they are creating good looks from deep that simply aren’t falling, they need to look elsewhere and not live or die by the three ball.

Boston needs to prove that this series is a talent mismatch and that last year was an outlier. Show everyone that even if the 3-point attempts aren’t going down, you’re simply the better team. But to avoid all of that, trust the way you have played all year, which got you 64 wins and first place in the East, and keep knocking down good looks from deep because no one can keep up with the Celtics when that's the case.

Getting over the mental hump against Heat pivotal for Boston Celtics

Everyone remembers the heart breaking Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat last season. The Celtics were upset by Miami, and even though they almost did the impossible and came back from being down 3-0, that is a series that the Cs will not forget. They were expected to win and be in the Finals but they fell short.

The Heat now have a mental edge over the Celtics. They believe they can beat them because, well, they did not even one whole year ago. And now, the Heat are coming off a dominant win against the Bulls, so they feel even better going into this series and can come in with extra momentum.

Again, Boston needs to set the tone early to get over that hump. They can’t go down three games to zero again and hope to make a comeback.

Of course, this Celtics team is very different than last year, and the Heat will be missing Butler. But it was more the role players that killed the Celtics, and, for the most part, they’re still around and even improved with the likes of Jaime Jaquez Jr.; not to mention, Nikola Jović is a player who can get hot and have a Caleb Martin-like run.

The Celtics have to eliminate the confidence the Heat have and put them away early. No one wants a repeat of last season, or even anything close.

Boston Celtics must contain Bam Adabayo 

With Jimmy Butler out, Bam Adabayo is now the Heat’s best player. Of course, as we learned last year, everyone can do damage if they get hot enough. But Bam is consistently good for this Heat squad, and he’ll be getting an increase in touches in a series without Butler.

Adebayo is also a player who is capable of punishing the defense of Kristaps Porziņģis. Luckily, on offense, Porziņģis can pull Bam out of the paint, where he is very effective, so there is a trade-off. Regardless, when Al Horford is not on the floor, the Celtics must find ways to keep Bam from not only scoring but also creating for others; as he is a capable passer for his position. 

If the Celtics are able to achieve these three keys, then they should be set up to avoid a repeat of last year's disappointing playoff loss.