Boston Celtics advance to NBA Finals after Game 7 win over Miami Heat
MIAMI — Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka has suggested the Celtics “have to take the harder road sometimes.”
It’s the truth.
After squandering an opportunity to finish the Miami Heat at home in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics blew a 17-point second-quarter lead and gave the worn Heat a ray of hope.
This time, the Celtics finished the job, fending off Miami and Jimmy Butler with a 100-96 win in Game 7 on Sunday.
Jimmy Butler, who was once again fantastic, missed a 3-pointer with 16.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, which could have given the Heat a 99-98 lead.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum won the inaugural Larry Bird Trophy, awarded to the Eastern Finals MVP. He had 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal in the series finale.
The Celtics are continuing a remarkable turnaround. On January 6, they were 18-21 and in 11th place in the East.
“We always had glimpses of success,” Udoka said earlier in the series. “We were just trying to be consistent for the most part, knowing we were really good defensively throughout. Trying offensively to get our guys on the same page, to make them understand what we needed from them. That was the goal at that time.
“But sometimes we saw good things at the start. Just top to bottom, a bit inconsistent. But we were still optimistic if we were healthy and our defense continued, offensively we would continue to improve.
Boston advances to the NBA Finals for the 22nd time in franchise history and the first time since 2010. The Celtics will face the Golden State Warriors and bid for a league-record 18th championship, which would shatter a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday in San Francisco (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
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Jimmy Butler keeps it close
After a 47-point effort in Game 6, Jimmy Butler scored 17 of Miami’s first 30 points and 24 of their first 44. Butler scored 18 points in the second quarter as the Heat cut back a 16-point deficit to 55-49 in the 3:25 halftime finale.
Butler, who played all 48 minutes, finished with a game-high 35 points — his eighth game with at least 30 points this postseason, tying LeBron James for most 30-point games by a Heat player in a single postseason. playoffs. It was remarkable that he had a chance to put the Heat ahead late in the game after the Celtics took a 98-85 lead with 3:35 remaining.
Bam Adebayo added 25 points and 11 rebounds, but they didn’t get enough help.
Butler and Adebayo were a combined 25 for 45 from the field, but the rest of the team was 12 for 43.
The Celtics have won three of their four games in this series in Miami, and became the ninth team since 2016 to win a Game 7 on the road (excluding the 2020 bubble). They are the first road team to win a Game 7 in the Conference Finals since Golden State defeated Houston in the 2018 Western Finals.
The home team won Game 7 76% of the time, but the Celtics bucked that trend.
Boston’s Big 3 produces
Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart combined for 74 of Boston’s 100 points.
Tatum had eight points in the first quarter, Brown nine in the second and Smart nine in the third, and Smart and Tatum combined for 13 of Boston’s 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Celtics defense shines
Boston had the No. 1-ranked defense this season, and it showed in Game 7. The Celtics didn’t force an outsized number of turnovers or blocked shots, but they held the Heat to 42.2% shooting from the field and 20% on 3 points.
They just made scoring difficult, contesting shots.
Injured Tyler Herro joins rotation
Heat Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro starred in Game 7 after missing the previous three games with a strained left groin.
“He passed his tests with the coaches,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game. “He’s been working really hard over the past few days. Every day he made significant progress, and he was able to shoot around this morning, but more importantly, he was able to do stuff in the practice room and pass those tests to be available.
He entered the game with 11:37 left in the second quarter, but played only seven minutes and did not score.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Celtics beat Heat in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals