Dan Le Batard: ‘The Celtics got great because Jimmy Butler made them’

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Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

In recent years, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have frequently been in each other’s way in the Eastern Conference, with one of those teams representing the conference in the NBA Finals in three straight seasons now.

After the Celtics fell to the Heat in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, Boston decided to make some major changes in the offseason, building a new supporting cast around franchise cornerstones Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

The Celtics are now two wins away from winning the 2024 NBA Finals thanks in part to the roster they assembled in the offseason, but as sports analyst Dan Le Batard sees it, the Celtics may have the Heat and Jimmy Butler to thank for forcing them to get better.

In the last five seasons (including the current campaign), the Celtics and Heat have met in the playoffs four times. On two of those occasions (2020 and 2023), Miami took potential NBA Finals bids away from Boston, with the Heat beating the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals those years.

The series loss in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals may have been the last straw for the Celtics, who used the ensuing offseason to acquire players like Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis — even at the expense of losing players like Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.

The changes have paid dividends for the Celtics, who went 64-18 in the regular season before cruising through the Eastern Conference side of the playoff bracket. They’re now up 2-0 against the Dallas Mavericks in the championship series.

As it turns out, Miami’s fingerprints may be all over the 2024 NBA Finals. Le Batard makes a good point that the Celtics may have gotten better due in part to Butler and the Heat, and earlier in the playoffs, the team indirectly played a role in the outcome of a pivotal game the Mavericks won in the Western Conference Finals.

But the Heat would much rather be impacting the NBA Finals in a different way — by playing in the series. Butler has gotten the franchise close to the promised land before, and he’d certainly love to finish the job next season.

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Jason has covered the NBA for multiple years and has plenty of memories involving the Miami Heat. He expects there will be winning basketball in South Florida for years to come.