Martin, Butler spark Heat to resilient Game 7 win on road, beat Celtics to advance to Finals
This is what resilience looks like. What heart looks like.
Miami had to fight through the play-in, coming back late against the Bulls to earn the No. 8 seed. Then they beat the feared Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then they beat the feisty New York Knicks. All that to get the most talented team in the NBA on paper, the Boston Celtics.
Miami raced out to a 3-0 series lead, then watched the Celtics climb back in — taking a punch to the gut with Derrick White’s putback to win Game 6 and force a Game 7. Most teams would have rolled over after that loss.
Miami came out hungry in Game 7, punched the Celtics in the mouth in the first quarter, pulled away in the second to a double-digit lead, and never let Boston all the way back, eventually taking their hearts and the game, 103-84.
The Miami Heat advance to the NBA Finals, flying directly after this game to Denver where they will face Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets starting Thursday night.
Caleb Martin was the MVP of this game — 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, plus 10 rebounds — and was the Heat’s best player all series long.
However, the voters gave the Eastern Conference Finals MVP award to Jimmy Butler, who scored 28 in this game and bounced back after a couple of rough outings.
For Boston, the game may have turned on the team’s first possession when Jayson Tatum turned his ankle, landing on Gabe Vincent after a jumper. He stayed in the game and finished with 14 points, but he never moved the same and was not the threat the Celtics needed as a shot creator with the ball in his hands. Postgame Tatum admitted it impacted his play.
With Tatum injured, the Celtics ran a lot of their offense through Derrick White and he responded with 18 points.
With Tatum down, the Celtics also needed more Jaylen Brown, who scored 19 points but on 8-of-23 shooting with eight turnovers. It was not nearly enough.
Both teams were tight to start the game (as is often the case in Game 7s) and it showed mostly with the Celtics shooting 0-of-10 from 3. Miami started slow but did a better job settling into their offense and led 22-15 after one quarter. Their hot streak extended to a 25-7 run into early in the second.
The Heat stretched the lead up to as much as 17 and led by 11 at the half thanks to 14 from Caleb Martin and 11 from Jimmy Butler in the first 24. The Celtics were lucky to be that close shooting 4-of-21 from 3 and Jayson Tatum only scoring seven points. What kept Boston close was the seven offensive rebounds.
Miami made a push in the third quarter, had momentum for stretches with White hitting shots and making plays, but they couldn’t get stops and entering the fourth they were still down 10.
Then the Heat started the fourth on a 7-0 run, which was the ballgame.