Important Facts and Stats Before Game 1 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals

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  • Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will be on Tuesday night in Orlando.
  • The Heat have won two of three previous playoff series against the Celtics. Miami also leads their all-time playoff meetings at 9-8.
  • The Celtics are 1.5-points favorites to win Game 1 and are -120 betting favorites to win the series.

The 3rd seeded Boston Celtics begin their seven-game series on Tuesday night against the 4th seeded Miami Heat in the first ever Eastern Conference Finals not involving the no.1 team in the conference.

The |Heat swept the Pacers in the first round, and ousted the Bucks in 5, and have not played since September 8th. Meanwhile, the Celtics swept the 76ers in round one but went seven games with the Raptors in their last series. The Celtics most recently played last Friday.

Two Winningest Teams in the Bubble

Boston will be playing in its third Conference Finals in the last four seasons and they are looking to make the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Miami is searching for its first appearance in the ECF since 2014. The Heat made four straight trips to the NBA Finals from 2011-2014.

This Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will be one between two of the top three winningest current franchises in the NBA playoffs. The Lakers have the best record in the NBA playoffs, winning 71% of of their series. The Celtics are next at 68% while Miami is third at 61%.

It is also a series between the winningest teams in the NBA’s restart. The Phoenix Suns (8-0) and Toronto Raptors (14-5) have the best record in Orlando but with those two teams already eliminated, Boston (13-6) and Miami (11-6) are the most successful remaining teams in the bubble.

Rival Executives

There are no two NBA executives who hate each other more than Boston’s Danny Ainge and Miami’s Pat Riley. The rivalry between these two execs began with the Celtics vs Lakers during the 80s. Ainge played alongside Larry Bird’s champion Celtics teams while Riley was the coach of the Showtime Lakers.

Ainge and Riley were also involved in the infamous 1993 brawl between the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks. That game led to a record of 21 players fined or suspended and both Ainge and Riley ended up on the deck:

Ainge has become the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations since 1993 while Riley has been the president of the Miami Heat since 1995. As executives, they have continued to go at each other, most notably in 2013 when Ainge criticized LeBron James. Riley lured Ray Allen from Boston while most recently, Ainge beat Riley to signing Gordon Hayward. Now, their paths cross once more and it might be wrong not to expect fireworks.

Heat Have More Conference Finals Experience

Boston has seven players on its roster who have played in an Eastern Conference Finals before. Leading the way are Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart who each have a 12-game conference finals experience. None of the players on the Celtics team have played in the Finals.

Seven members of the current Miami Heat have also appeared in a previous Eastern Conference Finals. Udonis Haslem is the most decorated veteran with a total of 48 conference finals games played while Andre Iguodala has 22. Both Haslem and Iguodala have gone all the way to win the NBA title.

Overall, the Miami Heat have more conference finals experience with their players combining to appear in 80 such games. Meanwhile, the Celtics’ players have a combined conference finals experience of 47 games. Curiously, this will be the first conference finals appearance for Boston’s Kemba Walker and Miami’s Jimmy Butler who both entered the league in 2011.

Celtics Facing Rested Heat

Boston has won five out of the last six head to head meetings between these two teams, including two out of their three meetings this season. However, Miami won the most recent one, which stands as their only meeting here in Orlando.

It’s interesting to note though that all three regular season meetings between these teams were the second of back to back games for the Heat. On the other hand, Boston had a single off day in two of those games and two off days in the other game. Back to back games are non-existent in the playoffs so we’ll see how that plays out.

When we talk about the playoffs, these teams met in the first round in 2010 and the Celtics took that series in 5 games. They faced off again the following season in the conference semifinals and the Heat won that series in 5 games. In 2012, the met once again in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Heat won in seven games. Overall, their playoff head to head record is 9-8 in favor of the Heat.

Boston is the Slight Betting Favorites

The Celtics are the slight betting favorites to win the series at -112 while Miami is currently pegged at +132 at BetOnline. Boston is also a -1.5 odds on favorite when it comes to spread betting while Miami is an even money underdog to the Celtics -120 in the moneyline.

ESPN polled its 22 NBA experts on who will win the series and all 22 writers predicted the series to go six or seven games, with 14 saying that this series will go the full seven-game route. As to who wins this series, the vote ended up in an 11-11 tie. That’s how close this series could be.

However, Boston is expected to get a boost with the return of Gordon Hayward who has cleared quarantine. While he has been officially ruled out for Game 1, the Celtics are expected to get Hayward back in the series. Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game during the regular season, numbers only Larry Legend have put up in a green jersey. Should Hayward return earlier, he could be the difference maker for the Celtics.

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Shane Acedera / Author

Shane grew up watching the Magic & Bird rivalry but ended up rooting for Detroit's Bad Boys team in the 1990s NBA. He loves to tell sports stories and has been writing about sports since high school. When Shane isn't busy jotting down his thoughts, he's just chillin' at home with his wife Rocelle and their two dogs named Horry and Fisher.