Watch CBS News

The Celtics will play the Heat in the first round of the NBA Playoffs

What the Celtics are saying ahead of the NBA Playoffs -- even without knowing their opponent
What the Celtics are saying ahead of the NBA Playoffs -- even without knowing their opponent 02:30

BOSTON -- The Celtics will be out for some revenge in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Celtics and the Miami Heat are set to square off for the third straight postseason, with Boston looking to avenge last year's loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The series will tip off Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at TD Garden.

The Heat secured the Eastern Conference's 8-seed Friday night with a 112-91 win over the Chicago Bulls in the NBA's Play-In tournament, bouncing back from a loss to the 7-seeded 76ers in Philadelphia on Wednesday. It's the second straight season that Miami has claimed the final playoff spot in the East, and Erik Spoelstra's crew will look to play spoiler once again. 

The Heat ruined the summer for the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in last year's first round, and then proceeded to upset the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games. Miami lost to Denver in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics were the far superior team last year and should have won that series. But they let the Heat jump out to a commanding 3-0 series lead, and though they made it interesting with three straight wins themselves, the Celtics got blown out at home in Game 7, ending their season with a massive disappointment.

Miami is always a pesky opponent, and fans will always feel uneasy when they're on the other side of the court. But there will be no Jimmy Butler-induced nightmares for Boston this time around, as the Heat star will be sidelined for the next several weeks with an MCL injury that he suffered Wednesday night. Terry Rozier's status for the series is also in question, as he's been out for nearly two weeks with a neck injury.

So the Heat are pretty banged up and will be relying heavily on the likes of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr., while the Celtics are at full strength. Boston is once again the far superior team, and the Celtics are out for a banner after plowing through a 64-win regular season, finishing with a historic plus-11.7 net rating. 

But the Celtics still should not -- and cannot under any circumstances -- take this Heat team lightly. They can't lose winnable games at home or let series extend longer than they should, which bit them in the butt last year. 

There is no time for underestimating anyone in the playoffs, and the Celtics should be well aware of that. With that being said, they should be able to make quick work of the Heat in this series, and proceed on their quest for the franchise's 18th title. 

Celtics vs. Heat in the regular season

The Celtics owned the Heat this season, taking all three regular-season matchups. Their dominance was highlighted by a 33-point blowout win in Miami on Jan. 25, with the 143-110 victory the most lopsided win in the Boston's 172 meetings against Miami.

The Celtics shot 64 percent that night and hit 22 three-pointers, as Jayson Tatum paced a balanced Boston attack with 26 points. Kristaps Porzingis scored 19 before leaving the game with an ankle injury, while Jaylen Brown scored 18, Jrue Holiday added 17, and Derrick White finished with 15 points. Few teams are beating the Green when the starting five produces like that.

The first matchup between the two teams came in the second game of the regular season, which the Celtics won 119-111 at home. Miami held a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but the C's outscored the Heat 32-23 in the final frame thanks to 14 points from White and another 12 from Brown. White had a game-high 28 points, shooting 9-for-15 from the floor and 5-for-7 from downtown.

The Celtics and the Heat haven't played each other in over two months, with their last meeting coming on Feb. 11 in Miami. The Heat made a late comeback in that one, fueled by Herro scoring 22 of his 24 points in the second half, but the Celtics hung on for a 110-106 win. Miami pulled within two points with under two minutes to play, but Tatum and Porzingis iced the game for Boston at the free-throw line. Tatum just missed out on a triple-double, pouring in 26 points to go with 10 rebounds and nine assists. 

There was also a bit of fire between Jaylen Brown and Duncan Robinson in that final meeting when the two got tangled up during the game, which turned into a war of words afterwards. We'll see if there's any lingering animosity between the two when the series tips off Sunday. (Count on it.)

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat
Duncan Robinson and Jaylen Brown exchange words on the court. Megan Briggs / Getty Images

Celtics vs. Heat rivalry in the NBA playoffs

This will be the seventh time that the Celtics and the Heat match up in the playoffs. Miami has won four of the six previous matchups, all of which have come since 2010. This will be the fourth time the two teams have met in the last five postseasons. 

The Celtics took the first playoff series between the two teams in 2010 in five games, as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen embarked on their second trip to the NBA Finals with Boston. The Heat went out and added some star power that offseason, bringing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach, and sent Boston home in five games in the East semifinals that postseason before losing to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals.

It was Celtics-Heat yet again in 2012, but this time they met for a trip to the NBA Finals. The aging Celtics took a 3-2 series lead thanks to Pierce's clutch 3-pointer over LeBron in Game 5 in Miami, but couldn't stamp out the Heat over the next two games. James went off 45 points and 15 rebounds in Miami's Game 6 victory in Miami, and then dropped 31 and 12 in Game 7 to win the series. He won his first championship a few weeks later when the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics and the Heat didn't match up in the playoffs again until 2020, when they met in the NBA Bubble in Orlando. The Celtics were the favorites in that series, but the Heat were victorious in six games. They squared off in the Eastern Conference Finals again in 2022, which the Celtics won in seven games, escaping with a Game 7 win in Miami off a Butler missed three at the buzzer. The Celtics went on to lose to the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

That brings us to last summer, which still stings. Miami took the first three games of the East Finals before the Celtics fought back with three straight wins. It felt like another Boston team was about to pull off a 3-0 comeback to make it to the championship stage. But it was all just a waste of time, as the Celtics were blown out on their home floor in Game 7.

That ushered in an offseason of change for Brad Stevens and the Celtics, as he traded away Marcus Smart for Porzingis and eventually landed Holiday for Robert Williams and Malcolm Brogdon. The Celtics are a much different team than the one that lost to the Heat last postseason, but the core players should know that they can't overlook their first-round opponent.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.