Photo from Twitter.
By Terrance Turner
May 29, 2022
The Boston Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals after beating the Miami Heat in tonight’s Game 7. In a hard-fought, physical match, both teams battled in a furious fight to the finish. With a team in which several starters scored in double-digits, the Celtics combined a tough, unforgiving defense with a high-flying offense. Jayson Tatum scored 26, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each added 24, and the Boston Celtics held off a frantic rally in the final seconds to beat the Miami Heat 100-96.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scored the first points of the night with an offensive rebound and a putback. Small forward/shooting guard at Jaylen Brown had back-to-back buckets to give the Celtics a 6-0 lead. Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry scored Miami’s first points of the game, going one for two from the free throw line, but Marcus Smart drilled a 3-pointer off the dribble.
Heat small forward Jimmy Butler snuck in for a steal and the score before Boston center Al Horford responded with an open three. Miami center Bam Adebayo scored to make it 12-5, but Boston went on an 8-0 run, topped by a Tatum three. Brown had the floater and that was the end of the quarter! The Celtics ended the opening 12 minutes on an 8-0 run. They led 32-17 at the end of the first.
It was Smart who ended the first quarter and started the second quarter by scoring — this time off the glass to expand the Celtics lead to 17. Butler responded by lobbying a one-handed shot from midrange and drawing the foul. He single-handedly took Miami on a 5-0 run to the narrow the gap, but Jaylen Brown answered with a 24-foot three-point jumper. Adebayo made a layup and Smart countered with two points of his own before Butler stunned audiences with this driving layup.
Boston maintained a lead of at least 11 until Heat center Bam Adebayo landed a hook shot to make it 41-32. But Tatum and Smart pushed the lead back to 13. The Celtics enjoyed a comfortable double-digit lead until the last two and a half minutes of the second quarter. Boston was up by as much as 15, ahead 53-38 before the Heat fought back. Max Strus sank a three-pointer and Jimmy Butler nabbed a 26-foot running pullup jump shot. But after two points by Jaylen Brown, Adebayo and Lowry made a slew of free throws. The Heat went on an 11-2 run to end the first half down 55-49.
Boston again maintained a comfortable advantage in the third quarter (they never trailed for the entirety of the game). But Victor Oladipo cut their lead to single-digits midway through the quarter, highlighting a 7-0 Miami run:
Jaylen Brown was fouled and made both his free throws, then traded driving layups with Butler. Thanks to a layup from Tatum, the Celtics pushed the lead back to 11 before the next timeout. Kyle Lowry hit a monster three, but Grant Williams answered back, making it 80 to 70 with 2:20 left. Boston led 82-75 at the end of the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, the Heat began to chip away at the Celtics lead. Guard Gabe Vincent had the lobbed pass and Adebayo scored with the slam dunk. Miami got a steal off Boston and Butler drove in a layup as he crashed to the ground. It was 82-79, the closest Miami had gotten, with 10:56 left in the fourth.
With 9:21 left, Adebayo leapt into the air for a rebound inadvertently elbowing Derrick White in the head and neck. White fell to the ground covering his face. White had to be treated on the sideline and a camera shot revealed that his forehead was bleeding. But there were more injuries to come.
Miami point guard Gabe Vincent injured himself on a floater that went nowhere, and Boston scored to make it 88-79. Miami missed nine shots in a row, and Boston went on yet another 8-0 run. Smart had a floater to make a 90-79. Celtics managed to stop the bleeding when Victor Oladipo scored in the paint, ending a four-minute drought. But with just two seconds left on the shot clock, Tatum drilled a three to make it 93-81.
Boston led by as much as 13 before Miami turned the tables with an 11-0 run. It was 98-96 when Boston regained possession off a miss by Butler. Smart nailed both his free throws to make it 100-96 with 11.4 remaining. Every shot Miami took after that failed to connect, and the Celtics hung on to win Game 7, winning their series four games to three. They will face Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, starting Thursday.
Jayson Tatum was named Eastern Conference MVP. “It’s a great honor,” Tatum said, adding that “to get over the hump with this group — it means everything. So I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. The road that we took to get here — not a lot of people believed in us. We took the toughest route, and it worked out.”