Poll: Which Team Will Win Eastern Conference Finals?

For the second season in a row and the third time in the last four years, the Celtics and the Heat will face one another in the Eastern Conference Finals, battling for the right to play in the NBA Finals. The series will tip off on Wednesday night in Boston.

[RELATED: Which team will win Western Conference Finals?]

The odds of the Heat making it back to the Eastern Finals appeared slim when the postseason began. After finishing the regular season seventh in the conference, Miami needed two play-in games to secure its playoff berth, then saw one of its top scorers – sharpshooter Tyler Herro – break his hand during the first half of Game 1 against the top-seeded Bucks.

Despite injuries to Herro and reserve guard Victor Oladipo, as well as the history of futility for No. 8 seeds in the NBA playoffs, the Heat pulled off an impressive five-game upset of Milwaukee, then defeated the No. 5 Knicks in the second round to advance to the third round.

Jimmy Butler, who has been the Heat’s leading scorer in every single game he has played during the playoffs (he missed Game 2 of the Knicks series due to an ankle sprain), has been the difference-maker for the franchise. After averaging 22.9 points per game during the season, “Playoff Jimmy” has bumped that number to 31.1 PPG in the postseason, chipping in 6.6 RPG, 5.4 APG, and 1.7 SPG with an impressive .527/.361/.792 shooting line.

Butler and Bam Adebayo, who is anchoring the defense and providing secondary scoring, have been buoyed by a supporting cast featuring Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin, and a resurgent Kyle Lowry, leading the Heat to an improbably deep run. Miami will be looking to become the first No. 8 seed in NBA history to win a title — if they can get past Boston, the Heat will become just the second eighth seed in league history to even make the NBA Finals, joining the 1999 Knicks.

To advance to the Finals though, the Heat will have to defeat a Celtics team that held the East’s top seed for much of the season and ultimately ended up No. 2 with 57 wins.

Boston had a league-best +6.7 net rating during the regular season, posting the NBA’s second-best offensive rating (117.3) and finishing second in defensive rating (110.6) too. The offense has been even better (118.1) during the postseason and the defense (111.0) has shown no sign of slipping.

This is a talented, well-rounded team led by a pair of star wings – Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – and featuring strong defenders all over the court, including guards Marcus Smart and Derrick White and big men Robert Williams and Al Horford.

While Miami should have the head coaching advantage in the series, which pits long-tenured Heat coach Erik Spoelstra against Celtics first-timer Joe Mazzulla, there’s little question that Boston has the talent edge on the court. Currently, BetOnline.ag lists the Celtics as significant betting favorites — Boston is -550 to advance to the NBA Finals, while the Heat are +430 underdogs.

But the Heat have defied the odds to even make it this far. Can they do it again? We want to know what you think. Which team will represent the East in this year’s NBA Finals?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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