There are few people in the NBA who don’t like themselves more than Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge and Miami Heat president Pat Riley – and it has been for four decades.
They hated each other in the 1980s when Ainge was a Celtics guard in the finals against Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers.
They hated each other in the 1990s when Ainge was playing for the Phoenix Suns and Riley was coaching the New York Knicks and they both got involved in a fight. Ainge and Riley ended up on the deck, Riley tearing his pants. It resulted in a record of 21 players fined or suspended.
Since 2003, when Ainge was named president of Celtics basketball operations, they have hated each other as rival executives, with Riley in charge of the Heat since 1
They went there numerous times in that time frame, most memorable in 2013 when Ainge criticized LeBron James on a radio show and Riley released a formal statement that read:
“Danny Ainge needs to shut his mouth and manage his team. He was the biggest crybaby when he played and I know that because I coached against him.”
Ainge’s response: “I don’t care about Pat Riley. He can say whatever he wants. I don’t want to ruin his Armani suits and that whole lock of hair. It would be too expensive for me.”
Paul Pierce said he was delighted to bring his talents to South Beach when the Celtics won the first match between the big three. Udonis Haslem responded by saying that Pierce was a “studio gangster”.
The Celtics won in a 2010 playoff meeting. The Heat won in 2011. In 2012, the Heat won a seven-game classic in the conference finals.
Riley signed Ray Allen away from Ainge. Ainge beat Riley to Gordon Hayward’s signing.
Now a new chapter. There are new faces – well, except Haslem – on the pitch. There are new styles – if there was a 21-player brawl today, there could be a Congressional investigation – that are being employed.
But this Eastern Conference Finals series is still Heat-Celtics. And that means it’s Riley-Ainge. These are their teams, with their character and their heritage.
It has almost never disappointed us.
– Brian Windhorst
Game 1, September 15: Heat to the Celtics | TBD on ESPN
Game 2, September 17th: Heat to the Celtics | TBD on ESPN
Game 3, September 19th: Celtics in the heat | 8:30 pm on ESPN
Game 4, TBD: Celtics in the heat | TBD on ESPN
Game 5, TBD (if needed): Heat to the Celtics | TBD on ESPN
Game 6, TBD (if needed): Celtics in the heat | TBD on ESPN
Game 7, TBD (if needed): Heat to the Celtics | TBD on ESPN
How the Celtics got there
Kemba Walker’s mid-range jump shot fell despite a foul on Pascal Siakam.
Record 2019-20: 48-24 in total
Offensive evaluation: 112.8 (quarter) | Playoffs: 111.2 (seventh)
Defensive evaluation: 106.5 (quarter) | Playoffs: 102.7 (first)
The Celtics entered the Florida bubble with high expectations and lived up to it. Boston has been fantastic since arriving in Orlando, largely thanks to Kemba Walker’s return to health. After the guard dealt with knee problems for the last two months of the season before it was suspended in March, and again when the team reunited back in Boston in June, Walker returned to his usual self during the playoffs, flying around and doing the kind of impressive turnaround moves that made him a star with Charlotte.
Boston also managed to overcome the loss of Gordon Hayward, who suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the team’s first playoff game against the 76ers. The Celtics also escaped a titanic seven-game fight with reigning champion Raptors after hitting them widely – Boston lost heartbreak in Games 3 and 6 – to return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons. Now, Boston is four wins from his first trip to the NBA Finals in a decade.
– Tim Bontemps
How the heat got here
The Miami Heat, led by Jimmy Butler, advance to the Eastern Conference Finals as they return to beat Milwaukee 103-94.
Record 2019-20: 44-29 overall
Offensive evaluation: 111.9 (seventh) | Playoffs: 112.9 (fifth)
Defensive evaluation: 109.3 (12 °) | Playoffs: 105.4 (quarter)
The Heat were the darlings of the bubble. They believed that, leaving for the reboot, their organizational culture had given them a huge boost in terms of preparing for the mental challenges of being away from family and friends for so long – and they were right.
The professional approach taken by the Heat as a team shone brightly on the floor. After wiping out the Indiana Pacers in the first round, the Heat have dominated seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games. It was one of the most impressive series of an underdog in recent memory, and Jimmy Butler led the way.
During the playoffs, the Heat received contributions up and down the roster, from veterans like Goran Dragic and young difference makers Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. The single most memorable moment so far probably came in Game 2, when Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled Butler as time ran out and Butler went in line – as players from both teams stared helplessly across. of the field – and made two free throws to win the game. The Heat beat the Bucks 40-13 – Butler beat the Bucks 17-13 alone – in the fourth quarter to come back and win Game 3 is a close second.
– Nick Friedell
Series key: How will Boston handle Miami life by 3?
Here’s a wild statistic: The Celtics have finished in the top six in the opponent’s 3-point rate every season for the past decade. And this series could hinge on whether or not Boston’s historic 3-point defense slows down Duncan Robinson is one of the best shooting suits in the NBA.
During the regular season, Boston ranked second in the NBA, allowing only 34% of its 3 opponents to find bottom of the net, and the Celtics were even more stingy in the first two rounds of this post-season season, holding the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers a total of 29.2% from the center.
But here’s the thing, the Heat aren’t the Sixers. Miami is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, ranking second in the league by 3-point rate this season, and was the East’s most accurate 3-point shooting team in the first two rounds of these playoffs. .
Even though Adebayo was runner-up in the league’s highest grades chart this season, his teammate Robinson also exploded onto the scene, stepping out of relative obscurity to record one of the best catch and shoot seasons this season. league I’ve ever seen.
Robinson has made over 46% of 513 3 catch-and-shoot this season. Here is the list of shooters in NBA history who have made more than 45% of at least 500 3 catch-and-shoot in a single season: Duncan Robinson. That’s all.
No Klay Thompson. No Ray Allen. No Stephen Curry. The only one to close is Thompson, who has tried 500 catch-and-shoot triples in two seasons but never exceeded 43.6% in either season. Robinson is a special talent.
Just like Thompson, Robinson can warm up and change games – and series results – with his sweaters, but one of the reasons Boston has put up terrific 3-point defensive numbers is because Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart are both proven defenders capable of closing and contesting shots.
If the regular season is any indication, Boston should be confident here: Miami only made 32% of its 3 in the three matchups involving the teams participating in this series.
– Kirk Goldsberry
MORE: Make your 3 or watch your season crumble
Key to the series: how fouls could decide the East Finals
I keep an eye on how many trips the Heat make on the free throw line in this series. In terms of the four factors of success in basketball, the Celtics’ greatest defensive weakness during the regular season was their tendency to foul. They ranked 24th in terms of opponent’s free-throw attempts per field goal.
Meanwhile, led by Butler, Miami has attempted the most free throws per field goal attempt (.299) of any NBA team. This was reported in the playoffs, where the Heat’s free-throw attempt rate jumped to 0.351 per field goal attempt despite the fact that their top two opponents (Indiana and Milwaukee) finished in the top 10 in percentages. of free throws lower than the opponent during the regular season.
In Butler and Dragic, Miami has two skilled practitioners of the dark art of drawing and contact selling. Just like when defending James Harden, opponents must remain disciplined and avoid reaching out, no matter how tempting it may seem. The Bucks failed that test far too often in the first three games of their series, when they sent the Heat to the free throw line an average of 31 times per game. By the time Milwaukee learned its lesson, it was too late to return.
Boston survived by forgoing 31 free-throw attempts in the January bout between these two teams in Miami, but their encounter at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex during planting matches was less encouraging. Even with Butler absent, the Heat have made it to the free-throw line 39 times – including 18 for Adebayo – in a 112-106 victory over a healthy Celtics side.
Depending on when Hayward is able to return, Boston’s fouls could have extra impact. Not only do those fouls put Miami in line for efficient production, the Celtics also risk foul issues that will force Brad Stevens to go deeper into his bench than he wants. Smart was fouled in just 16 minutes when these teams met recently and Tatum received his fifth foul in the third quarter.
– Kevin Pelton