MIAMI – Not this time. After being thwarted at the door of the NBA Finals three other times in the previous five seasons, the Boston Celtics have broken through.

The beasts of the East, again.

And now the opportunity for an NBA title awaits him.

Eastern Conference Finals MVP Jayson Tatum led the way with 26 points, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each added 24 and the Celtics beat the Miami Heat 100-96 on Sunday night to earn a spot in the Finals. NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

“This is amazing,” Smart said. “We finally got over the hump.”

It was Boston’s first Game 7 victory on another team’s home court since beating Milwaukee for the 1974 NBA title; technically, the Celtics were the “street” team when they beat Toronto in a Game 7 two years ago in the restart bubble, but that was at Walt Disney World.

Tatum, wearing a purple and gold bracelet bearing the number “24” of Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, his favorite player, had lost two Eastern Finals in his young career. Brown and Smart were part of the Boston East’s final losses in 2017, 2018 and 2020. And this one was slipping away, a frenzied run from Miami in the final moments putting what looked like a surefire Celtics victory in doubt.

But they would hold. Jimmy Butler, brilliant again for Miami, missed what would have been a go-ahead 3-pointer with about 17 seconds left, and the Celtics never trailed.

A San Francisco.

“Getting over the hump with this group means everything,” Tatum said.

Butler, who led Miami to Game 7 by scoring 47 points Friday at Boston, led the Heat with 35 points in what became his season finale. Bam Adebayo added 25 for the Heat, who were down 11 with less than 3 minutes to go before attempting one last rally.

A 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Max Strus with 51 seconds left, put the Heat within 98-96. They didn’t come close. Boston wouldn’t be denied, and is now 2-0 in Game 7 in these playoffs after ousting defending champion Milwaukee in the Eastern semifinals.

“It’s just one of those really tough times,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You can’t prepare for that… It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to talk in your locker room after a game like this.”

Kyle Lowry scored 15 for the Heat. Grant Williams finished with 11 for the Celtics.

The notion that Boston is destined for the Finals would have been considered an unlikely proposition two or three months ago.

Ime Udoka’s first season as Celtics coach was not without its immense challenges. Boston got off to a 2-5 start, lost to Milwaukee on Christmas Day to drop below .500, and still had a losing record at the end of January.

Through 50 games, the Celtics were 25-25. No team had that kind of record in 50 games and had made it to the NBA Finals since 1981, when the Houston Rockets started 22-28 and wound up making the title series, where they lost to Boston.

Now the Celtics will look to improve the Rockets. That Rockets team made the playoffs with a 40-42 record. This Celtics team roared to life down the stretch and is still roaring.

“Our focus is to get four more,” Udoka said.

They went 26-6 down the stretch of the regular season and had an uncanny ability to bounce back. Boston is now 13-1 after losses in the last four months.

“On the road that we took to get here, not a lot of people believed in us,” Tatum said. “We took the most difficult path. He peeked out

Boston’s lead was 32-17 after one quarter, the largest ever by a visiting team after 12 minutes of a Game 7, four points more than Golden State’s lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1977 playoffs. .

The tone was set and leadership was never relinquished.

Miami finished the half on an 11-2 run, the flurry sparked by 3-pointers by Strus and Butler, then capped by Lowry’s four free throws in the final 29 seconds. Butler was up 24 points at halftime and Miami had pulled within 55-49 entering the third.

Miami thought it was within 56-54 when Strus hit a 3 corner kick early in the third. But the Celtics responded with a 9-1 run, which was even worse: The NBA replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey, decided that Strus had gone out of bounds, his 3-pointer went off the board as the game wore on and a 56- Game 54 became 65-52.

“The Boston Celtics did what they came here to do in this series,” Butler said.

The Heat kept holding on, all the way to the end. They just couldn’t catch Boston.

“It’s heartbreaking when it ends like this,” Spoelstra said. “Certainly you have to give credit to the Boston Celtics organization, their team and their coaching staff… Hats off to them. They are a great basketball team. .»

And now, the Celtics are on their way to the finals.

“Today was the biggest test,” Brown said. “Not just the year, but our races.”

They passed.


Celtics: Derrick White had to leave early in the fourth quarter because he was bleeding after Adebayo hit him in the head under a basket. … The Celtics became the first team to win three road wins over Miami in the same playoff series.

Heat: Butler was the second NBA player this season to play every second of a game. The other was Georgios Kalaitzakis of Oklahoma City, in a 50-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. … Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro returned from a three-game absence due to a groin injury, but went scoreless in seven minutes.


Boston improved to 26-9 in Game 7. Miami fell to 6-5 in those games and lost for the first time in five Game 7s at home under Spoelstra.


Miami was a 2.5-point underdog at the start according to FanDuel Sportsbook, marking the second time in the last 20 games 7, excluding the bubble restart in 2020, when all games were at Walt Disney World, that the home team was not. favored. The other was Houston in the 2018 Western Conference finals; the injury-plagued Rockets were underdogs by 6.5 points and lost to Golden State 101-92.

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