Miami Heat defeat the Boston Celtics to enter the 2023 NBA Finals

Miami Heat Become First Play-In Team to Make it to NBA Finals

Winning Game 7 of a thrilling Eastern Conference Finals series, the Miami Heat secures a ticket to the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals on Monday by routing the Celtics 103-84 and keeping Boston from a historic comeback after being down 3-0 in the series.

Jimmy Butler had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Caleb Martin added 26 points and 10 rebounds to spark Miami, which will visit Denver on Thursday to begin the best-of-seven championship final.

The tone of the game was set within the first play of the game, after Boston’s main man Jayson Tatum suffered from a poor landing, affecting his ankle throughout the remaining four quarters. Taking full advantage, the Miami Heat avoided becoming the first team in NBA history to lose a playoff series after taking a 3-0 lead.

Miami managed to make a full recovery from a gut-wrenching defeat in Game 6, where the team fell to the Celtics by a last-second tip-in by Derrick White, to win the Eastern Conference Finals, 4-3.

“We stayed together as a group and as a team,” Butler reflected after the game. “We talked about going to get a tough one on the road and we did just that.

“But we’re not satisfied. We’re happy. We’re ecstatic. But we’ve got one more to get.”

Back to the finals

Conquering the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat will be seeking a fourth NBA title and first one since 2013. The last time they reached the NBA Finals was in 2020, where they eventually lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. This year, they will be facing the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets, into the NBA Finals for the first time, swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference final and have not played since May 22.

Game 7 recap

After a slow rolling start to the game, Miami stretched the lead as high as 17 points in the second quarter — a margin the Heat hadn’t squandered to lose a game all season — but Boston pulled within 52-41 at halftime.

With Tatum hurting, Derrick White took the lead scored eight straight points to lift the Celtics within 59-51.

But Caleb Martin sank a baseline jumper just before the third-quarter buzzer, giving him nine in the period, to put Miami ahead 76-66 before the last period. Martin then converted a three-point shot to ignite a 7-0 Miami run to open the fourth quarter for an 83-66 edge, matching the Heat’s largest lead to that point.

The Celtics went nearly four minutes without scoring and never again threatened, finishing 9-of-42 from the three-point line.

“We shot 21 percent from three,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla explained. “The defense was still there.

“They gave it everything they had. That’s the most important thing to take from this. We failed, but it’s not because the guys didn’t have a sense of togetherness and character.”

Tatum, who finished with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, stayed in the contest but grimaced often and the prolific scorer took only one shot in the first 17 minutes.

“He just tried to play through it as best he could,” Mazzulla added.

An 18-6 Heat run to close the first quarter gave Miami a 22-15 lead with the Celtics matching their season low for first-quarter points.

Boston went 0-for-10 from three-point range in the first quarter, missing the first 12 from beyond the arc overall, and made only 6-of-23 from the floor in the opening period.


Banner image from Miami Heat on Twitter.

Related Stories:

From the Stands: How to Watch the NBA Finals Live the Right Way

5 Things That We Loved About Manila’s New NBA Store

5 Times Deuce Tatum Was a Bigger Star Than His Dad