Boston Celtics

Celtics vs. Heat first-round playoff preview, odds and prediction

NBC Sports Boston's Mike Gorman will be on the call for Games 2 through 6.

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The Boston Celtics begin their quest for Banner 18 on Sunday afternoon, and their first opponent is an archrival.

The Miami Heat are back again. The Heat lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first play-in tournament game Wednesday but earned the No. 8 seed by beating the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

The No. 8 seed is not an unfamiliar position for the Heat. They were in the same spot last season and became just the sixth No. 8 seed to knock off the No. 1 seed in the first round after dispatching the Milwaukee Bucks in just five games.

Miami's run included a triumph over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat needed a Game 7 win in Boston to secure the conference title despite jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. Miami's journey ended with a Game 5 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

So, will history repeat itself for the Heat? Well, the task is much more difficult this time around because Heat star Jimmy Butler is expected to be sidelined for "several weeks" with an MCL injury in his right knee, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week. Butler suffered the injury in the loss to the 76ers on Tuesday.

Butler is the heart and soul of the Heat, as well as their best player, leader and most clutch performer. He's had some incredible playoff performances against the Celtics in recent years, most notably in the 2022 and 2023 conference finals.

Even if Butler can't play in this series, it would be foolish to completely write off the Heat. This is a very well-coached team loaded with playoff experience. But this Celtics team is also the best we've seen since the 2008 squad that won the championship. The C's set numerous league and franchise records during the regular season, while compiling the best record at 64-18.

Here's a complete preview of Celtics-Heat.

Series schedule

Here's a look at the Celtics' full first-round schedule, with tip-off times already set for Games 1 through 3. Games 2 through 6 will all air on NBC Sports Boston, with legendary broadcaster Mike Gorman on the call for his final Celtics games alongside color analyst Brian Scalabrine.

NBC Sports Boston will have coverage of every game an hour before tip-off with Celtics Pregame Live.

Regular season head-to-head

Derrick White led the Celtics with 28 points, and also had 3 impressive blocks. Jaylen Brown scored 27, as all five starters scored in double-figures for Boston.
Check out full game highlights from the Celtics' 143-110 win over the Miami Heat
Celtics come away with a 110-106 victory against the Miami Heat. It came down to the wire, but all-around games from Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porzingis helped lead to the win.

The first and third meetings were pretty close throughout. The Heat entered the fourth quarter up 88-87 in the Oct. 27 matchup and the Celtics outscored them 32-23 in the frame. Jaylen Brown scored 10 points in that fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter of the third game was exciting, too. The Heat wouldn't go away, and trimmed the Celtics' lead to as little as three on multiple occassions. But the Celtics answered back each time, including a clutch 3-pointer from Brown late in the quarter.

The only blowout in the season series was the Jan. 25 contest. The Celtics shot 63.7 percent from the floor, 55 percent on 3-pointers (22-of-40) and 95 percent from the free throw line. Boston also scored 30 or more points in every quarter.

The Celtics outscored the Heat by an average of 15 points and out-rebounded them by 7.3 per game en route to sweeping the season series.

Tale of the Tape

Here's how the Celtics and Heat compare in several notable statistics. (NBA rank in parentheses.)

The Celtics will win the series if...

They hit 15 or more 3-pointers per game.

The Celtics made 1,351 3-point shots this season -- the second-most of any team in a single season in league history. They also ranked No. 2 in 3-point percentage at 38.8. When the Celtics are hitting 3s, they are almost unbeatable. Boston had a 54-9 record when making 15-plus 3-point shots this season. They went 10-9 when making 14 or fewer 3-pointers.

The C's shot an impressive 45.8 percent from beyond the arc in three games against the Heat this season, which includes an average of 18 makes on 39.3 attempts per contest. It was their highest 3-point percentage against any team all season.

Jrue Holiday was particularly effective from 3-point range against the Heat, shooting 65.3 percent and averaging 16.3 points per game in the three matchups.

The Heat will win the series if...

They have multiple role players contribute in a major way.

The Celtics were a better team than the Heat last season. But the primary reason why the Heat upset the C's in seven games was that they had several role players give career performances.

Caleb Martin averaged 9.6 points per game on 35.6 percent 3-point shooting in the 2022-23 regular season. In the conference finals against the Celtics, he averaged 19.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting from 3-point range. He made multiple 3-pointers in all seven games, including a 4-of-6 showing in Game 7 during which he scored 26 points.

Martin shot just 35.7 percent in the conference semifinals and 33.3 percent in the NBA Finals on 3-point attempts. Unfortunately for the C's, he had the series of his life in the East Finals.

Gabe Vincent averaged 9.4 points per game on 33.4 percent 3-point shooting in the 2022-23 regular season. He improved to 15.8 points and 51.6 (!) percent 3-point shooting in the conference finals.

It was unreal how well some of Miami's role players performed in that series. Some of it was bad defense by Boston, and some of it was bad luck. Anyone can get hot in a seven-game series. Unfortunately for the Heat, that luck ran out in the Finals.

Which role players will step up in this series? Will it be Jaime Jaquez Jr., Duncan Robinson, Terry Rozier or Martin again? Miami cannot rely on Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo to carry the offense themselves.

The Heat did shoot 38.3 percent from beyond the arc against the Celtics in the regular season, which is pretty good. They'll need to maintain that percentage or improve it to have a chance at upsetting the Celtics again, especially if Butler doesn't play or is limited due to injury.


Sportsbooks have the Celtics as the favorites to win the series.

  • Celtics to win the series: -1800
  • Heat to win the series: +950


Celtics in five.

The loss of Butler is massive for the Heat. Miami is a good defensive team, but it lacks the scoring firepower to compete with a historically strong offensive team in the Celtics.

This matchup also will be personal for the Celtics. The Heat eliminated Boston in the conference finals in 2020 and 2023. Getting past a nemesis like the Heat could be huge for the Celtics' confidence going forward.

This matchup should be physical and highly entertaining, but unless the Celtics completely implode late in games, they could make this a short series.

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