May 17, 2023 - Sports

"This is our year:" Heat must get through Celtics to make NBA Finals

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler misses a go-ahead three-pointer in Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.

Miami was one Jimmy Butler three-pointer away from the NBA Finals last year. Photo: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Heat play the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals (8:30pm, TNT).

Why it matters: The Heat barely made the playoffs and are just the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to make the conference finals.

Catch up fast: This is the second straight year that these teams need to get through each other to make the finals. Boston beat Miami last year before losing to Golden State.

  • But the Celtics have improved since then, adding Malcolm Brogdan, while Miami lost PJ Tucker to free agency and Tyler Herro to injury but signed Kevin Love.

What we're watching: Will Jimmy Butler outgun Boston star Jayson Tatum, who is coming off a historic 51-point Game 7 performance to eliminate the 76ers?

  • Butler is averaging 31 points per game in the playoffs but his scoring is slightly down after injuring his ankle in Game 1 of the second round vs. the Knicks.

What they're saying: "This year is our year. We're going to go into this Game 1 and do what we're supposed to do and be the first one to four," Butler said yesterday.

Meanwhile, bar owners and fans can breathe a sigh of relief: the Panthers, another underdog (they advanced to the NHL's Eastern Conference Finals), don't play until Thursday.

Eddie Fuentes, owner and operator of Grails Miami, tells Axios that spacing out the games is better for business and gives both fanbases the opportunity to show up for their teams.

  • "It makes a lot more sense," he says of the new schedule. "It was a conversation that people were having already at the bars."

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