Some teams would fold after a heartbreaking defeat like the Miami Heat suffered against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Jimmy Butler’s squad is not one of them.
Instead, the Heat came out strong to start Game 7. After the Celtics took an early five-point lead, the Heat closed out the first quarter with an 18-5 run that let them take a 22-15 advantage heading into the second quarter. They never looked back after that. Miami would never relinquish the lead after taking it in the first quarter and they finished the series with a 103-84 blowout victory in Boston.
This was one of those games that helped Jimmy Butler’s legend grow, as he bounced back from a rough Game 6 to lead all scorers with 28 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in another two-way performance that showed why he’s among the game’s best players. He shot 12 of 28 from the field, but made 3 of 7 three-pointers that energised his team.
The other hero for the Heat was Caleb Martin, who once again put on an offensive display that will likely make him some serious money. Martin started scoring well again, shooting 6 of 10 in first half and led all first half scorers with 14 points. He added another 12 in the second half and ended the game with 26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a steal while shooting 11 of 16 overall and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Honestly, there was a very real case for Martin to have won the Conference Finals MVP award.
Butler and Martin did more than enough to help the heat overcome a tough start from Bam Adebayo, who started 1 of 7 from the field but finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and a block. That rest of the Heat squad did more than enough on both ends of the floor to help with unselfish play.
The well-deserved Game 7 victory showed how good coaching and belief in their players helped the Heat. Their undrafted players combined for 56 points in Game 7, while veteran Kyle Lowry had seven points, seven rebounds and five assists with a game-best plus/minus of +26. The Heat also shot 14 of 28 from beyond the arc, outperforming the Celtics, who shot 9 of 42. Miami’s zone defense proved too much for the Celtics, who thought they could shoot themselves back into the game instead of making adjustments. Jayson Tatum clearly wasn’t at his best after rolling his foot in the first quarter, but the rest of the Celtics were unable to muster enough offense to get themselves back in the game. Jaylen Brown also had eight turnovers for Boston, many of which the Heat punished.
The Heat are now looking forward to their second NBA Finals in the last four years. They face an offensive juggernaut in the Denver Nuggets, and Miami will have to figure out a way to stop the generational talent of Nikola Jokic along with co-star Jamal Murray and Denver’s similarly feisty supporting cast.
For now, the Heat will enjoy Butler’s prophetic words. He said at the end of last year’s series against the Celtics that they would be back and have enough to win, and they delivered.