The Boston Celtics are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years. For the second series in a row, Boston prevailed in Game 7, this time taking down the Miami Heat, 100-96. The ever-resilient Celtics came out on top in what ended up being an absolute slugfest.
Boston punched first. They sprinted out to a 24-9 lead in the first eight minutes of the game, and by the end of the first quarter, the Celtics were up by 15 points. Their gameplan was to play fast and punish the Heat on the fastbreak, and it worked. Jayson Tatum took advantage of transition opportunities, dishing out a few sweet assists, including this one to Grant Williams.
But as has been the story of the series, the Heat punched back. Miami clawed their way back all throughout the second quarter. Jimmy Butler exploded for 18 second-quarter points, shooting 5-for-5 from the field in the period, as well as 7-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Every time Boston made a mistake on offense, the Heat punished them. They too were attacking in transition, and Boston was struggling to keep up. The Celtics committed 16 fouls in the first half - the most they’ve had in a game this season (regular season or postseason). Thanks to Butler’s dominance and some antics from Kyle Lowry at the end of the second, Miami cut Boston’s lead to six by the half.
What game are they watching?— JJ Redick (@jj_redick) May 30, 2022
Despite the Celtics’ early efforts, Miami was determined to squeeze every ounce of fight out of them. And it was working. In true Game 7 fashion, this game was a battle.
The third quarter was more of the same. In fact, it was a microcosm of the first half. Boston jumped out to a double-digit lead for the first few minutes of the third, but by the time the five-minute mark rolled around, Miami had cut the lead back down to seven. The Heat were playing the role of the bug on the windshield that wouldn’t go away, and the Celtics were out of wiper fluid.
They weren’t out of it for long, though. If basketball is a game of runs, then this game was the epitome of basketball. Boston and Miami refused to go back and forth, instead choosing to alternate runs, sending fear down the spines of the two fanbases over and over again. By the time the fourth rolled around, the Celtics were up 82-75.
In the fourth quarter, with all the chips on the table, it was Butler vs. the Celtics. Miami’s star player was the best player on the court for the entire game, and that didn’t change in the final period.
But while Butler may have been the best player, the Celtics were the better team. Jaylen Brown was phenomenal, driving to the hoop with force, but keeping his turnovers under control and always making the right passes. All of the things Ime Udoka has asked him to do all series. Brown finished with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field.
Tatum, despite his occasional missed layups and turnovers, made shots when he needed to. And Marcus Smart, despite his late-game misses, filled up the stat sheet and did a little bit of everything. Boston’s elite defense and team-oriented basketball came out on top.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a true Celtics game without drama. Miami went on a massive 11-4 run to end the game. A big shot by Strus struck fear into the hearts of Celtics fans, but a missed Butler pull-up and a pair of Smart free throws sealed the deal.
As Derrick White so eloquently put it, “if it was easy, it wouldn’t be us.”
The Celtics will take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Game 1 will take place on Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 p.m. EST.