September 25, 2023

Lift the Celtics to reach the NBA Finals after nearly taking a 3-0 series lead

They certainly haven’t made it easy, but the Miami Heat is officially going to the NBA Finals.

Caleb Martin and the Heat fended off the Boston Celtics on Monday night at TD Garden to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals 103-84. Martin dropped 26 points and shot 11 of 16 from the field in what turned out to be a great win in Boston. That set up a three-game win streak for the Celtics and prevented the Heat from ending up on the wrong side of NBA history.

The Celtics were just the fourth team in league history to even force a Game 7 after falling into a 0-3 series gap. No team has ever successfully rallied from that deficit and won the series in 151 attempts.

The Heat are on their way 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 great win in Game 7 on Monday night.

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

Caleb Martin storms Heat past Celtics

Although TD Garden was ridiculously noisy to start the game, the Heat shut Boston out early. They took a 7-point lead in the second quarter after holding the Celtics to just 15 points in the opening period—marking their lowest-scoring first quarter all season. The Celtics shot from behind the arc as a team 0-of-10 in the first quarter.

To make matters worse for Boston, Jayson Tatum rolled his left ankle hard on the very first possession of the game. While staying inside, his ankle was clearly bothering him. He took only one field goal attempt in the first 12 minutes.

The Celtics finally made some 3-pointers early in the second quarter, but the Heat pushed their lead to 17 points quite easily just a few minutes into the period. Although the Celtics cut into that a bit, Miami still took an 11-point lead at halftime.

Derrick White single-handedly put together an 8–0 run 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 narrowed the deficit to just 8 points on a floater just five minutes into the quarter, forcing Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout. Finally, for about the first time in the entire game, the Celtics seemed to have momentum back on their side.

But it was Martin who hit a huge three-pointer and then a fadeaway bucket from the short corner just short of the end of the third to return the Heat to a double-digit lead.

Martin opened the fourth quarter with another three-pointer for two quick buckets from Butler. That 7-0 run suddenly put the Heat up 17 points again. And just a few minutes later, after a mini Bam Adebayo run, the Heat had 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 simply drove the rest of the way to the 19-point win, earning the Heat a return trip 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 – setting a Celtics franchise record in a Game 7. White finished with 18 points and Tatum added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Brown, Tatum and Marcus Smart shot a combined 3-of-19 from the 3-point line.

Butler finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. He was named MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals 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 to go with his scoring. The Heat shot 50% from the 3-point line as a team and only had 10 turnovers.

The Heat, after starting the postseason in the play-in tournament, now faces the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. Behind a dominant postseason showing from Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last week to reach their first-ever NBA Finals. The Nuggets host Miami in Game 1 of that series on Thursday night at Ball Arena.

NBA final

Denver Nuggets v Miami Heat

Game 1: In Denver, Thursday 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 2: In Denver, Sunday 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 3: In Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET June 7 (ABC)
Game 4: In Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET June 9 (ABC)
*Game 5: 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

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