They certainly didn’t make it easy, but the Miami Heat are officially headed to the NBA Finals.
Caleb Martin and the Heat held off the Boston Celtics to take Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals 103-84 on Monday night at TD Garden. Martin dropped 26 points and went 11-for-16 from the field in Boston’s winning streak. It gave the Celtics a three-game winning streak and prevented the Heat from landing on the wrong side of NBA history.
The Celtics are the fourth team in league history to force an even Game 7 after falling into an 0-3 streak. No team has ever rallied from that deficit in 151 attempts to win a series.
The Heat are headed to their second NBA Finals appearance in four seasons.
Caleb Martin leads the Heat storm past the Celtics
Even though TD Garden was ridiculously loud to start the game, the Heat shut Boston down early. After holding the Celtics to just 15 points in the opening period, they blew a 7-point lead in the second quarter — their lowest scoring first quarter all season. The Celtics shot 0-of-10 as a team from behind the arc in the first quarter.
To make matters worse for Boston, Jayson Tatum severely rolled his left ankle on the game’s first possession. During his stay, his ankle was clearly bothering him. He made just one field-goal attempt in the first 12 minutes.
The Celtics finally made a pair of 3-pointers early in the second quarter, but the Heat easily pushed their lead to 17 points in just a few minutes. Even though the Celtics cut it short, Miami still held an 11-point lead.
Derrick White single-handedly sparked an 8-0 run for the Celtics in the opening minutes of the third period, cutting the score to single digits for the first time since the first quarter. He cut the deficit back to just 8 points on a floater after the five-minute mark of the quarter, which forced Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout. Finally, for the first time all game, the Celtics seemed to have the momentum back on their side.
But it was Martin who hit a huge 3-pointer and then a fadeaway bucket from the short corner to put the Heat back in front by double digits.
Martin opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer before two quick buckets from Butler. That 7-0 run was suddenly reheated by 17 points. A few minutes later, after a mini Bam Adebayo run, the Heat took a 21-point lead.
The Celtics’ drive was over, and TD Garden had a much different vibe than the first few minutes of the game. Miami cruised easily the rest of the way for a 19-point victory that sent the Heat back to the NBA Finals for the first time since losing to the Lakers in the 2020 bubble.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 19 points and 8 rebounds, though he had a career-high 8 turnovers – a Celtics franchise record in a Game 7. White finished with 18 points, and Tatum added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Brown, Tatum and Marcus Smart combined to shoot 3-of-19 from the 3-point line.
Butler finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. He was named the Eastern Conference Finals MVP after the game and averaged 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists throughout the series.
Adebayo added 12 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists for Miami. Martin had 10 rebounds and 3 assists to go along with his scoring. The Heat as a team shot 50% from the 3-point line and had just 10 turnovers.
After opening the postseason in a play-in tournament, the Heat will now face the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. The Nuggets, behind a dominant postseason from Nikola Jokic, reached their first NBA Finals appearance last week by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets host Miami in Game 1 of that series Thursday night at Ball Arena.
Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat
Game 1: at Denver, 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday (ABC)
Game 2: at Denver, 8 p.m. ET Sunday (ABC)
Game 3: at Miami, 8:30 p.m. and June 7 (ABC)
Game 4: at Miami, 8:30 p.m. and June 9 (ABC)
*Game 5: at Denver, 8:30 p.m. and June 12 (ABC)
*Game 6: at Miami, 8:30 p.m. and June 15 (ABC)
*Game 7: at Denver, 8 p.m. and June 18 (ABC)
* – If necessary