September 25, 2023

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The Heat hold off the Celtics to reach the NBA Finals after nearly snapping the series 3-0

The Heat hold off the Celtics to reach the NBA Finals after nearly snapping the series 3-0

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 Monday night at TD Garden to take Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals 103-84. Martin lost 26 points and shot 11-of-16 from the field in what turned out to be a big win in Boston. That snapped a three-game winning streak for the Celtics, and prevented the Heat from landing on the wrong side of NBA history.

The Celtics were the fourth team in league history to force a Game 7 after falling into the 0-3 hole. No team has ever overcome this deficit and won the series in 151 attempts.

The Heat are heading to their second NBA Finals in four seasons.

Caleb Martin dropped 26 points to help lead the Heat in what turned out to be a big win in Game 7 on Monday night. (Maddy Meyer/Getty Images)

Caleb Martin leads the Heat storming past the Celtics

Although TD Garden was ridiculously loud to start the game, the Heat shut down Boston early. They took a 7-point lead in the second quarter after holding the Celtics to just 15 points in the opening period—which was their lowest scoring first-quarter percentage 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, Jason Tatum rolled his left ankle hard on the first possession of the game. While he stayed, his ankle was clearly bothering him. He made just one goal attempt in the first 12 minutes.

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The Celtics finally made a pair of 3-pointers early in the second quarter, but the Heat easily pushed their lead to 17 points just minutes into the period. Even though the Celtics cut that short, Miami still held an 11-point halftime lead.

Derrick White single-handedly made it 8-0 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 then brought the lead back to just 8 points on a float five minutes into the quarter, forcing Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout. Finally, for almost the first time throughout the 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 fading bucket from the short corner before the end of the third to put the Heat back into a double-digit lead.

Martin opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer before two quick buckets from Butler. That 7-0 inning suddenly turned the Heat up by 17 points again. And just a few minutes later, after a Bam Adebayo mini-run, the Heat built a 21-point lead.

The Celtics’ push was over, and TD Garden had a very different vibe for the first few minutes of the game. Miami cruised the rest of the way to win by 19 points, earning the Heat a trip 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 for Game 7. White finished with 18 points, and Tatum added 14 points and 11 rebounds rebound. Brown, Tatum and Marcus Smart shot 3 of 19 from the 3-point line.

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Butler finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. He was named 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 for his goal. The Heat shot 50% from the three-point line as a team and only had 10 turnovers.

The Heat, after starting the post-season in cycle play, will now face the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. The Nuggets, behind a dominant postseason showing from Nikola Jokic, swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last week to reach the NBA Finals for the first time ever. The Nuggets will host Miami in Game 1 of that series Thursday night at Ball Arena.

NBA Finals

Denver Nuggets vs Miami Heat

Game 1: in Denver, 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday (ABC)
Game 2: in Denver, 8 p.m. ET Sunday (ABC)
Third game: In Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET June 7 (ABC)
Fourth game: In Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET June 9 (ABC)
*Fifth game: In Denver, 8:30 p.m. ET June 12 (ABC)
*Game 6: In Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET June 15 (ABC)
*Game 7: In Denver, 8 p.m. ET June 18 (ABC)

* – if necessary