Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes his players can rise to the challenge of taking on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals (Money Line – Heat 4/5, Celtics 21/20).

The pair do battle in Game 1 in the early hours of Wednesday at the FTX Arena, with the Heat fresh from their 4-2 series win over Philadelphia 76ers.

However, they will once again be without Kyle Lowry, who has missed six of their 11 playoff games with a hamstring issue and has again been listed.

Lowry only featured in Games 3 and 4 against Philly, with Small Forward Jimmy Butler leading with game-high scores in Games 3 to 6.

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The Heat were the Eastern Conference’s top seeds heading into the playoffs. Boston finished second in the standings, two games back and are fresh from upsetting the reigning champions, Milwaukee Bucks, 4-3.

Grant Williams outscored Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 7 as the Celtics came from 3-2 to edge the series with their last gasp 109-81 win at TD Garden.

They are 21/10 to win the NBA Championship, with the Heat 4/1 in the outright. Out west, Golden State Warriors are 11/8 and the Dallas Mavericks 11/2.

With the first two games of the series taking place in Florida, Miami have a chance to lay down a marker as they eye a first title since 2013.

Spoelstra says his team are raring to go, but is adamant they are not taking anything lightly against an in-form Boston team (Eastern Conference Winner – Boston 8/15, Miami 6/4).

“Our guys love competition and love being challenged,” Spoelstra said on Monday. “They love taking on big challenges. That’s what we’re facing.

“Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It’s not by accident. They’re playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends.”

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