The NBA Eastern Conference Finals tip-off tonight, on May 17, with the #1 seed Miami Heat hosting the #2 seed Boston Celtics. For every game, 10 NBA Top Shot collectors and fans will get to experience the intensity and action live. Once the series wraps-up and an Eastern Conference champion is crowned, the best Moments from this matchup will be featured in the Rare Series 3 “And Then There Were 4” set, as well as in a continuation of our Common 2022 NBA Playoffs set

Do you think the Celtics or Heat will be making a trip to the Finals?

Here are 5 things to watch for in this matchup of two powerhouse NBA franchises. 

Jayson Tatum’s Ascension

Throughout Celtics history, Boston faithful have been blessed with clutch shot-makers. Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, Sam Jones, John Havlicek and Ray Allen all come to mind. Jayson Tatum is next up. He’s come a long way since his 19-year-old self in the 2018 ECF against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Now, Tatum is back in the Conference Finals as Boston’s primary scorer, and the focal point of a devastating wing combo with Jaylen Brown

Tatum already showed his poise with a game-winning Moment against Brooklyn in Round 1 that shook TD Garden to its core, and a massive 46-point performance in Milwaukee, capped off by a clutch layup Moment for a must-win Game 6.

Max Strus: Diamond In The Rough

In Max Strus, we’re talking about a guy who knows adversity. Strus began his collegiate basketball career with Division II Lewis University, transferred to DePaul, went undrafted, was cut by the Celtics, jumped around the G League, and finally the Heat saw something in Strus they like in their rotation. He isn’t afraid to let it fly – he shot 41% from deep in the regular season and his shot is carrying over to the postseason.

He was one of the NBA’s 8 “Under The Radar Breakout Ballers” we wrote about in February, and in Game 5 against Philadelphia with the series tied at 2-2, Strus stepped up in a big way. He recorded a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double and hit a massive shot over Danny Green down the stretch. The Moment was his coming-out party, and his emotion shows how far he’s come.

Heat’s Trio Of Toughness – Adebayo, Butler, Tucker

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more rugged grouping in the entire league. These guys, and their playing styles, scream Heat Culture. It’s clear defensively. Whether it’s Bam grinding to switch onto any-sized opponent, Jimmy searching for the next telegraphed pass, or P.J. up in your shorts, they’re ready. 

If any team has a shot to defend Boston’s wings, it’s Miami. They’ve got the late-season experience and the grit. Offensively, they’ve all been bringing it these Playoffs too. 

Butler’s 28.7 PPG is 4th-most among all players so far. Tucker created all kinds of problems on the offensive glass for Atlanta and Philadelphia. And as for Bam, well, his lefty slam (and one) Moment in Game 2 against the 76ers put an exclamation point on his impact in the series. 

Al Horford’s Resurgence

Who knew Big Al could still play at this level? His versatility in the 2022 Playoffs in Rounds 1 and 2 has been more than impressive. 

Need him to slow down the league’s best forwards? Sure. 

Stretch the floor and hit dagger three-pointers? No problem. 

Still get up above the rim on both ends? You got it.

Horford did just that in one of the best Moments from the 2022 Playoffs. In Game 4 vs. the Bucks, he drove past Giannis and put the former Finals MVP on a poster. His mean mug set the tone, and he put on a tremendous performance, scoring a playoff career-high 30 points. 

*Update: Al Horford has entered health and safety protocols and is out for Game 1 vs. Miami.

Jaylen Brown Staying Aggressive

The Celtics are at their best when Jaylen Brown attacks the basket. At 6’6,” 223 lbs, Brown can overpower smaller defenders and finesse his way around larger ones. With much attention on Tatum, look for Brown to drive hard into the lane after the ball finds him on the perimeter, or frequent the paint for second-chance opportunities.

Out of a timeout in Game 7, Brown curled around a screen to get past elite defender Jrue Holiday and made a spectacular play near the rim. His alley-oop (and one) Moment shocked the Bucks and ignited the Celtics fans as Brown roared with passion.

We look forward to seeing how the series unfolds and tracking the best stories and Moments with you using #NBATopShotThis on social media. Enjoy the games and see you at our next NBA Playoffs pack drop this Saturday, May 21!