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The stage is set. Four teams remain in the NBA postseason. The top-seeded Miami Heat take on the surging Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.

Although oddsmakers have the No. 2 Celtics as the favorite entering the series, Heat star Jimmy Butler isn’t buying it. He didn’t go full Joe Namath with a guarantee of a series win, but he came pretty close.

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat ready for the red-hot Boston Celtics

Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat looks on during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals at Wells Fargo Center on May 12, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images.

Butler is in his third season with the Heat, and he’s geared for his second Eastern Conference Finals appearance in Miami. He’s the latest star in the way of the Celtics. The Celtics knocked off Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in a first-round sweep. They sent Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo after a grueling seven-game series.

Butler and the Heat are bracing for a hard-fought series that will feature top-notch defense, something lacking in today’s NBA. The 10-year NBA veteran welcomes that type of game.

“I think there will be a lot of defense played on both sides,” Butler said, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “I like games in the 90s. That means you really guard somebody. You’re taking away the three-point line and playing inside the three-point line. You’re getting back, getting stops, and a lot of physicality.

“It fits the way they want to play. It fits the way we want to play, as well.”

The Heat wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the final week of the regular season, finishing with a record of 53-29 — two games ahead of Boston. Although the Heat knocked off the Celtics in the ECF two seasons ago, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said there aren’t many similarities between then and now.

“It’s different,” Spoelstra said. “Our team is different, our prep was a little bit different with them. It’s not like you have the same 15 guys on both teams.”

Butler: ‘We’re going to come out on top’ against the Celtics


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Namath and his New York Jets shocked the world in Super Bowl 3 when his team, a heavy underdog to the Baltimore Colts, pulled out an improbable victory. That came after the Jets quarterback guaranteed a win during a press conference leading up to New York’s 16-7 win.

Butler didn’t use the word “guarantee” as Namath did, but he was pretty close. He doesn’t care that the Celtics are the favorites. He said none of his teammates do either.

“What I love about this team the most is ain’t nobody paying attention to who anybody else picks because we know that we can win,” Butler said, per The Miami Herald. “Those are guys I want to go to war with. … We’re going to fight and we’re going to come out on top.”

That sounds more like confidence than cockiness. Butler has every right to be confident. He’s helped his team claim the top seed and then led them to series wins over the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics will be Miami’s toughest test. No NBA team has been hotter than Boston over the last three months. After a physical series with the Bucks, the Celtics look to stay hot against the Heat. Many predicted the winner of the Celtics/Bucks series would represent the Eastern Conference in the 2022 NBA Finals.

Butler isn’t buying that.