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Miami Heat Punch Ticket to Seventh NBA Finals in Franchise History

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Photo Credit: www.twitter.com/MiamiHEAT

Eastern Conference Finals Most Valuable Player Jimmy Butler would score 28 points, while breakout star Caleb Martin added 26 points and 10 rebounds to lift the eighth-seed Miami Heat over the Celtics 103-84 in Game 7 on Monday night, ultimately advancing to the big dance; and competing for a championship in the NBA Finals for the second time in four seasons.

Miami bounced back from almost ending up on the wrong side of history, they were on the verge of becoming the first NBA team out of 150 priors, to lose a playoff series after racing out to a 3-0 lead. Boston stunned Miami after finishing off three consecutive victories to tie the series at three games apiece, Miami had other plans though and took the life out of TD Garden in Game 7 to advance to the finals.

It was redemption for the Heat and revenge for Jimmy Butler after Miami lost in seven games a year ago to the Celtics in the very same round.

“We stayed together as a group. As a team, we talked about going and getting a tough one on the road. We did just that, but we’re not satisfied. We’re excited. We’re happy. But we’ve got one more to get,” Butler said while focusing on the upcoming matchup with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

Game 1 is set for Thursday night in Denver, where the western conference top-seed Nuggets have been waiting for Miami since sweeping LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on May 22.

Miami became the second eighth-seed in history to reach the NBA Finals, the team prior to that was the 1999 New York Knicks.

The road was not easy to get there, the Heat had to bounce back after losing their play-in tournament opener against the Atlanta Hawks and had to rally late to beat the Chicago Bulls in their second play-in game just to make the playoffs.

The playoffs came and they would shock the basketball world by defeating the best regular season team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, in five games behind historic performances from Jimmy Butler. Then the fifth-seed Knicks would fall victim to Miami in six games, the Heat became road warriors in the playoffs and proved that their opponents home court advantage does not matter.

Then came Boston, NBA analysts continued to choose against Miami and they were not having it. Miami put Boston in a 3-0 series deficit, a feat no NBA team has ever come back from. Three losses later, Miami was on the brink of the wrong kind of history, but they would prevail on the road once again.

“Sometimes you have to suffer for the things that you really want, this group has shown fortitude, when there are inevitable letdowns and failures, to have that perseverance to pick yourself up, to have that collective spirit to keep on forging ahead until you get to accomplish what you want to,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Game 6 buzzer beater hero, Derrick White, scored 18 points for Boston, Jaylen Brown scored 19 and added eight rebounds but went 1-for-9 from three-point range and committed a costly eight turnovers.

Jayson Tatum had 14 points with 11 rebounds after rolling his ankle on the first play of the game and limping through the rest of the way.

“When we were down 3-0, the thing was: How do we want to be defined? I thought they showed a lot of character by even getting to this point,” said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla.

The Celtics led by five points before giving up a 14-4 run to end the first quarter and then even worse, they gave up 16 of the first 22 points in the second quarter in favor of Miami.

Miami led 76-66 at the end of three quarters, then Jayson Tatum would miss a layup to open the fourth quarter, and Jaylen Brown would commit back-to-back turnovers; Miami would capitalize on the next three possessions. Caleb Martin knocked down a three-pointer and Jimmy Butler drained two shots to give Miami an 83-66 edge in the fourth.

Miami was in complete control of the game from start to finish. Boston would never recover, with the sold-out TD Garden crowd in a trance of stunned silence, boo birds and then applause for their Celtics before they began leaving the arena early.

“We failed. I failed and we let the whole city down, in spite of whatever circumstance we had this year we rose to the occasion. We got to this point and we came up short,” Jaylen Brown said.

Boston won Games 4 and 5 by double digits and had a comfortable lead in Game 6 before Miami rallied back late to take a one-point lead with 3 seconds left, after Jimmy Butler knocked down three free throws. The Heat seemed like they were about to head to the NBA Finals, then Marcus Smart would heave a three-pointer that rimmed out, but Derrick White scored on a putback in the final 10th of a second to force a decisive seventh game.

It took a vast amount of mental toughness from the Miami Heat’s organization to come back from that heartbreak in Game 6 to steal the souls of the Boston Celtics and their fans in Game 7, a blow out on their own home court to eliminate Boston from returning to the NBA Finals.

“The hole we put ourselves in, it’s hard. No one’s climbed out of that hole. It was the same tonight; we couldn’t climb out of the hole we created. I thought we showed how resilient we were, how good of a team we are, climbing out of it partially. But not being able to finish it on your home floor? That’s super disappointing,” said Malcolm Brogdon.

Instead, the Miami Heat overcame the heartbreak of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, when they lost to the Celtics in Game 7 of the conference finals on their own home floor in Miami.

“Last year was extremely painful, we thought about it all season long. And if you don’t have an opponent like that to bring you to a different level, sometimes you don’t get there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

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