Heat hammer Celtics in Game 7 to thwart comeback, head to Finals
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, Caleb Martin added 26, and the Miami Heat foiled the Boston Celtics' hopes of a 3-0 series comeback on their own floor to win Game 7, 103-84.
The Heat advance to the NBA Finals where they will travel to face the Nuggets in Denver on Thursday for Game 1. It's Miami's second trip to the Finals in the last four years, following its 2020 run in the Orlando bubble when the club fell short against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Butler, who also contributed seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals in the win, was awarded the Larry Bird Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Eastern Conference finals. He beat out Martin by a single vote among the nine-person panel.
"Nobody's satisfied," Butler said postgame. "We haven't done anything. We don't play just to win the Eastern Conference, we play to win the whole thing."
Boston was attempting to become the first team in 151 tries to win an NBA playoff series after losing the first three games. The Celtics managed to force Monday's winner-take-all contest but failed to find their offensive rhythm all game. Joe Mazzulla's squad shot just 32-of-82 (39%) from the field, including 9-of-42 from distance after going 4-of-21 in the first half.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics on a quiet night offensively, filling in with 19 points, eight rebounds, and five assists but shooting 1-of-9 from deep. Derrick White, whose last-gasp tip-in won Game 6 for Boston, had 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum rolled his ankle on his team's first possession of the game and appeared hobbled by the ailment all contest, grimacing and limping throughout. He finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists but struggled to find his stroke, shooting 1-of-4 from three and 5-of-13 overall.
Brown, who will be eligible for a super-max extension this summer, shouldered the blame after trying to lead his team following Tatum's early injury.
"Just a terrible game when my team needed me most," Brown said, according to MassLive's Souichi Terada. "JT hurt his ankle first play of the game. You could see it swelling up. He couldn't move out there, it was tough for him.
"My team turned to me to make plays, etc., and I came up short. I failed. It's tough."
Miami is just the second 8-seed to reach the Finals, joining the 1999 New York Knicks, who did so after a lockout-shortened 50-game regular season. The Heat, however, needed to progress through the play-in tournament to make the first round.