The Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the NBA Finals with a game seven victory over the Miami Heat. Despite going the distance, many were disappointed by the lack of close games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game seven delivered a better version of the same script we were served for the first five.
Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics Topple Heat for Crown
Celtics Steal Home Court
Boston was short-handed coming into the first game of the series. Without Al Horford and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, the Celtics were unable to keep up with the Heat at home. Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 41 points and Jayson Tatum paced the Celtics with 29.
Back at full strength for game two, Boston rolled out a 25-point beatdown of the home team. Tatum, Smart, and Jaylen Brown were a three-headed monster, scoring 27, 24, and 24 points res[pectively. The Heat missed the presence and leadership of point guard Kyle Lowry as they struggled offensively out of the gate. The second half was a draw, but the huge lead built early was too much for Miami to overcome.
The Heat Bounce Back
A 31-point night from Bam Adebayo helped the Heat to regain homecourt advantage almost as soon as they lost it. Miami was scared by an injury to Butler, who missed most of this game. PJ Tucker and Max Strus also stepped up to fill the void left by Butler.
Brown was Herculian in the losing effort, scoring 40 points for Boston. Tatum had a rough night, shooting 3-14 from the floor. Keeping with the script, Miami jumped out to a big lead and held on in a tightly contested second half.
Game four saw the pendulum swing back in the Celtics’ favor. Tatum was huge in this one, dropping 31 points. An injured Butler toughed it out for the Heat but struggled mightily on the offensive end. Boston was firing on all cylinders with four players other than Tatum in double figures. The Celtics cruised to yet another 20-point victory.
Celtics Have Miami Against the Ropes
When the Celtics walked away with a game five win, this series looked to be over for all intents and purposes. Butler’s injury seemed to be affecting his game. He shot an abysmal 4-18 in game five. He didn’t have much help in this one, either. Lowry was shut out and only Adebayo and Gabe Vincent finished the game with more than 15 points.
Tatum and Brown were again excellent, but Horford and Derrick White’s additions on offense helped Boston seal the deal.
Jimmy Buckets Rides Again
Somehow, someway, Butler turned it on in game six. His 47-point outburst was the biggest playoff scoring night in franchise history. Miami needed every bucket as they barely held on to a 111-103 victory. While Butler was the hero, it was Lowry’s game-tying three in the final minutes that proved to be the turning point for the Heat. He also played phenomenal defense on shooters from the sideline after fouling out. An effort that was met with a fine from the league.
Tatum, Brown, and White combined for 72 points but it just wasn’t enough to knock out the Heat at home.
A Fitting End to the Series
Game seven was a microcosm of the series itself. Boston took off with an early lead while Miami was slow to get going offensively. After a 32-17 first quarter, the Celtics had to fend off countless attempts at a Heat comeback. Butler and Adebayo gave it their all, combining for 60 points in the losing effort. Lowry had 15 points but did most of his damage from the foul line and otherwise couldn’t find the basket. Despite that, the Heat had a shot at a tie or the lead in the final seconds. Butler chose to pull up for a three rather than taking Horford to the rim. Some will argue that this was the wrong choice, but when you have a player of Butler’s caliber getting a clean look in that situation, it’s hard to pass it up.
Tatum and Brown were once again fantastic in this game. They combined for 50 points with Smart adding another 24 to push the Celtics over the top. In a fitting bit of historic coincidence, the first-ever Larry Bird award for the ECF’s MVP was given to a Celtic. Tatum becomes the first recipient of the award and will undoubtedly be hoping to add a Finals MVP to his trophy case this summer as well.
For Miami, this offseason raises a few questions. With Lowry aging and Oladipo possibly moving on, this team will need to add some talent to its roster to get back to the NBA Finals.
The Celtics will travel west to take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday for game one of the NBA Finals.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images