For the third time this postseason, the Miami Heat find themselves in an extended waiting game.
At the start of the playoffs, it was the wait before the Atlanta Hawks emerged from the play-in round as the first-round opponent.
Before the second round, Erik Spoelstra’s team had to wait until the Philadelphia 76ers emerged from their series against the Toronto Raptors.
This time there again will be television time to determine who is next, with Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. Game 7 at TD Garden deciding whether the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals will face the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks.
So as the Heat await their opponent for Tuesday’s 8:30 p.m. start of the East finals at FTX Arena, the Sun Sentinel again asked a veteran NBA scout for his take on potential scenarios going forward.
Q: If you were the Heat and could choose, would the preference be the Bucks or Celtics?
Scout: “I would be pulling for Milwaukee, because Khris Middleton is dealing with that knee injury, and his availability is huge. I just don’t think the rest of their team really scares me. You have guys who more or less can match up with Jrue Holiday. Yes, nobody matches up with Giannis [Antetokounmpo], but if any team can come up with schemes, it’s Miami. If you can come up with schemes for Joel Embiid, you can come up with schemes for Giannis. And I just think the other guys, they don’t have enough.”
Q: So if you see Milwaukee as the preferred opponent for the Heat, then what makes Boston the perceived tougher option?
Scout: “Because I just think their depth is better. Robert Williams will matter somewhat, I think [as he deals with a knee issue]. But they’ve done fine without him. That series should be over by now, because they have three other centers. Grant Williams is excellent. Daniel Theis is serviceable. And Al Horford has played out of his mind. Jayson Tatum is a superstar now, it looks like, or close to it. And Jaylen Brown gives them two guys versus one for Milwaukee. And Marcus Smart can guard whoever, can guard Jimmy Butler, can guard Tyler Herro. They have great defensive versatility.”
Q: The outcome of a playoff series often is dictated by the play of a superstar. Has the Heat’s Jimmy Butler this postseason raised his play to the level of Giannis or even Tatum?
Scout: “I think Jimmy has moved up, I agree. His focus, his desire, has reached another level. So I might not have said this before, but Giannis, Tatum, Jimmy, it’s sort of a wash. It’s a three-way wash, with what Jimmy has done recently. So it’s hard to say which guy is going to be the guy. Now, who’s going to be the best player, that’s a little hard to say until you see.”
Q: So if that’s a wash, then what?
Scout: “It might be the number-two guys. It might be [Boston’s] Jaylen Brown. It might be Tyler Herro. Where’s [Herro] been? Is he still in the league? He better re-emerge here, if they want to win a championship. And [Milwaukee’s] Jrue Holiday, you’re asking him to be more of a Middleton, more of a scorer than he wants to be.”
Q: So let’s look at the scenarios: Heat vs. Bucks, how would that play out?
Scout: “Milwaukee’s going to give you the three. Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, if Kyle Lowry plays, Tyler Herro, they’re going to get their ample share.”
Q: Heat vs. Celtics, how would that play out?
Scout: “It’s going to be a defensive series. It’s going to be every possession mano a mano. Because both teams are wired that way. They have the ability that way. It’s going to be on the low-scoring side. It’s going to be trench warfare.”
Q: OK, predictions, in your view: Heat vs. Bucks?
Scout: “Heat. I’d say six. I can’t see Milwuaukee winning four games against them.”
Q: Heat vs. Celtics?
Scout: “Seven-game series. I’m going Boston. They were the best team from midseason on. They’ve showed great resilience. That would be a hell of a series.”