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Heat dismantle Celtics, punch ticket to NBA Finals

Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, Caleb Martin added 26 and the Miami Heat became the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals with a convincing 103-84 victory over the host Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night.

Butler was named MVP of the series after averaging 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists.

Bam Adebayo recorded 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as Miami bounced back after losing the previous three games. Teams that held a 3-0 series lead improved to 151-0 all-time in the NBA playoffs. Jaylen Brown had 19 points and eight rebounds and Derrick White scored 18 points for second-seeded Boston, which was just the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after losing the first three games. Jayson Tatum had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics, but he turned his left ankle during the game’s first possession and hobbled throughout the contest.

The Heat will face the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. Game 1 is Thursday in Denver. The New York Knicks (1999 postseason) are the only other No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals. The other three teams to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0 are the New York Knicks (lost to the Rochester Royals in the 1951 NBA Finals), Denver Nuggets (fell to the Utah Jazz in the 1994 second round) and Portland Trail Blazers (lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2003 first round). Miami shot 48.8 percent from the field, including 14 of 28 from 3-point range. Duncan Robinson and Gabe Vincent added 10 points apiece. Martin made four treys and collected 10 rebounds and Butler also had seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.

The Celtics connected on 39 percent of their shots and were 9 of 42 from behind the arc. Boston went 16 of 77 from 3-point range over the final two games of the series.

Brown was just 8-of-23 shooting and committed eight turnovers. Boston trailed 52-41 at halftime and Game 6 hero White kept the Celtics in the contest with 13 third-quarter points.

White scored eight straight points as Boston trimmed a 16-point deficit in half with 8:29 remaining in the third. The Celtics were unable to creep within less than seven and Martin’s short baseline jumper with 1.5 seconds left gave the Heat a 76-66 lead heading into the final quarter.

Miami started the fourth quarter strong with a 3-pointer from Martin and back-to-back baskets by Butler to push the lead to 17. Later, four straight points by Adebayo pushed the advantage to 21 with 6:55 remaining. Miami’s advantage topped out at 23 points.

Boston missed its first 12 3-point attempts as Miami controlled the first half, leading by as many as 17 points. –Field Level Media


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