Jimmy Butler doesn’t have an NBA title on his résumé yet, but it’s taken a championship-level team to knock him out of the playoffs in recent years.
The Boston Celtics fended off a furious Miami Heat comeback attempt in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday to set up an NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Butler played all 48 minutes of the loss, scoring a game-high 35 points before missing a potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute. He also had two 40-plus-point games in the series and received a vote for the Larry Bird Trophy, given to the Eastern Conference finals MVP, in defeat.
Boston is now off to the Finals, where they will hope to follow in the footsteps of the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors, 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers and 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks. Not only are they the three most recent NBA champions, but they all took down Butler on their way to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Raptors famously beat Butler’s Philadelphia 76ers in their 2019 second-round series thanks to Kawhi Leonard and four favorable bounces off the rim. The Sixers’ Game 7 loss was Butler’s final game with the organization before he was traded to the Heat. Leonard and the Raptors, meanwhile, beat the Warriors in the Finals for the organization’s first NBA title.
Butler helped lead his new team past the Celtics in the 2020 conference finals, but the Lakers quickly extinguished the Heat’s championship hopes. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. beat the Heat in six games to earn their 17th championship.
As part of the Heat’s 2020 Orlando bubble playoff run, the team also dominated the Bucks in the second round. Milwaukee got the last laugh in 2021, though. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks swept the Heat out of the first round and wound up winning the Finals against the Suns.
The Celtics got some revenge of their own against the Heat in this year’s conference finals, and now they have a chance to end their 14-year title drought.
The Celtics’ 2022 playoff run features another series victory that follows a favorable Finals trend. Boston began its road to the Finals with a first-round sweep over Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. In Durant’s previous four playoff runs, he has either won the championship or fallen to the team that won it. That stretch includes two championship wins with the Warriors, the Warriors’ 2019 Finals defeat against the Raptors and the Nets’ 2021 second-round loss to the Bucks.