Wolverines In The NBA: Duncan Robinson Set For Conference Finals Battle
Former Michigan Wolverines basketball standout and current Miami Heat starting forward Duncan Robinson, in his first postseason as an NBA player, has helped his team reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014. The No. 5 seed Heat will take on the third-seeded Boston Celtics in Orlando for a spot in the NBA Finals.
Robinson had a quiet series in the Heat's upset over the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks, averaging nine points and 2.8 rebounds per outing. He did explode for 20 points, five rebounds and three assists in a game four loss, but was largely held in check. He tallied just two points and one rebound in 14 minutes during the Heat's game five, series-clinching victory.
The Celtics' starting group of guards and wings — Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum — pose a big challenge for Robinson and the Heat on the defensive end, and he understands that.
"It’s definitely a challenge," Robinson said in a video call with reporters. "At this stage in the playoffs, that’s what you gotta learn to expect. They’re a really well-balanced team and they have a lot of talent, individual talent and guys that can go and get them buckets.
"A lot of it’s going to be really keying in on tendencies and gaining an understanding of who it is you’re guarding and what they like to do. And then with us, it’s always a group effort defensively — pulling strings and pulling triggers and just showing that wall so nobody feels like they’re out there on an island, alone.
"We expect this series to be a battle, absolutely. You get to the third round, the conference finals, nothing’s going to be easy. Both these teams are here for a reason."
A native of New England, Robinson grew up attending Celtics games as and rooting for the team. Most in his circle are now against their once beloved club, and Robinson noted it's exciting to play on such a stage against such a team.
"I’m sure there are some people that are still rooting for the Celtics," Robinson said with a laugh. "All the people that are close to me, I wouldn’t say are torn, because they’re definitely rooting for me, but there is an interesting dynamic at play there with that. But I’ve felt a ton of support, and I know that everyone back home is excited.
"It’s a great opportunity for us, just to go out there and showcase what we’re capable of doing."
Game one of the series between the Heat and the Celtics tips off Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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