Boston is currently the No. 1 seed in the East with a 34-10 record through its first 44 games.
O’Connor shared his reasoning, citing Jimmy Butler’s play in the playoffs last season, on a podcast with Bill Simmons.
“Who are you most afraid of if you’re Boston in the East?” – @BillSimmons
“Definitely Miami. The way Jimmy Butler levels up his play in the postseason…What he did against the Bucks last year in the first round—Jrue Holiday even couldn’t stop him at that point. We just saw that… pic.twitter.com/s10ogbzBfC
— Dru (@dru_star) January 25, 2024
For the entire playoffs last season, Butler averaged 26.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game across 22 contests. He shot 46.8 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from 3-point range.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, Butler scored 35 points in Game 1 to lead the Heat to an upset victory. He followed that up with monster performances in Game 4 and and Game 5 of that series to close things out.
In Game 4, Butler scored 56 points, hitting 19 of his 28 shots from the field. He then turned in a huge Game 5, scoring 42 points in Milwaukee to clinch the series.
While the Celtics added guard Jrue Holiday in the offseason to improve their defense, Butler was able to dominate that matchup when Holiday was with the Bucks last season.
The Heat and Celtics have met in the Eastern Conference Finals three times since the 2019-20 season. Miami got the best of Boston in the 2019-20 campaign and last season (the 2022-23 campaign) to advance to the NBA Finals.
Boston did beat the Heat in the 2021-22 season when Miami was the No. 1 seed, but neither team has gone on to win a title during this stretch.
Right now, the Heat are the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 24-20 record. The team enters Thursday night’s matchup against Boston on a four-game losing streak after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
The Heat currently rank 27th in the NBA in points per game, so hopefully for Miami, Rozier will be able to improve that. The former Celtics and Hornets guard is averaging 22.7 points per game this season.
He had nine points in his Heat debut on Wednesday night.
Since Miami has been one of the most successful teams in the NBA the last few seasons – essentially since Butler joined the franchise – it’s hard to argue with O’Connor’s reasoning.
Ultimately, the Heat are hoping they can finally pay off a lengthy playoff run with an NBA title after getting so close in the Butler era.