The first round of the NBA playoffs should be a cakewalk for the Boston Celtics. Just a mere four games they have to play en route to a much larger goal.

But it might not be that way for the top-seeded Celtics, especially if Boston opens the postseason against the Miami Heat.

Miami first would have to get there, though, which only would happen if they lose to the Philadelphia 76ers in the play-in tournament Wednesday night and then beat either the Atlanta Hawks or Chicago Bulls on Friday.

That’s definitely a plausible outcome, but the Celtics should hope that the Heat handle business on the road against the 76ers or better yet, someone else takes care of the Heat and sends them home early.

Story continues below advertisement

The Celtics and Heat squaring off wouldn’t be the typical No. 8 vs. No. 1 matchup if it comes to fruition. The Heat, despite another underwhelming regular season for the second year in a row, are no pushovers. And there should be a sense of uneasiness if the Celtics are locked into a seven-game series with the Heat to begin their playoff run.

Miami, which faced Boston in three of the last four Eastern Conference finals, showed what it is capable of as an underdog eight seed last season. In fact, it’s a position the team thrives in. The Heat upset the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks before taking a 3-0 series lead on the Celtics. Miami, of course, blew that lead but responded by taking down the Celtics in Game 7 in Boston.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

The Heat certainly won’t be intimidated by the Celtics and their star power. And they would relish the opportunity to showcase their Heat Culture against Boston’s collection of stars.

The Celtics would also need to worry about Jimmy Butler turning into Playoff Jimmy Butler, which feels like an annual tradition at this point. The postseason just seems to bring the best out of the six-time All-Star and makes him an unstoppable force, especially in crunch time. He averaged an astounding 37.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists in last season’s first-round series with the Bucks and had his moments against the Celtics a couple of rounds later, too. Just ask Grant Williams about that.

Story continues below advertisement

Butler’s supporting cast might be better than it was last year as well. He has his sidekick in the versatile Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro is back after missing most of the season with injury. Jaime Jacquez Jr. was one of the better rookies in the league this season and there’s always the lingering presence of Caleb Martin, who caught fire against the Celtics last postseason but fell back to earth. There’s also Terry Rozier, who is an upgrade over Kyle Lowry but is a question mark due to a neck injury — he won’t play against the 76ers.

Miami’s biggest asset doesn’t come on the floor, though. It comes in the form of head coach Erik Spoelstra. He seems to push all the right buttons against Boston and surely would have something up his sleeve to test the Celtics.

Even if the Celtics face Miami, they should still advance. But there’s no doubt it would be a much trickier assignment and one where the margin of error would be much smaller than if the Bulls, Hawks or even 76ers came to town.

Featured image via Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports Images