BOSTON — Though their head coach defiantly showed his impatience immediately after a gut-wrenching defeat that put the team in the crosshairs of pulling off one of the most ignominious pulling-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory jobs in modern sports history, the Miami Heat finally proved that good things do indeed happen to those who wait. And what awaits Erik Sopelstra’s squad is a return trip to the NBA Finals.
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, while Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin produced double-doubles in leading the Heat to a convincing 103-84 road victory over the Boston Celtics to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night. It took four tries, and a near-collapse after taking a 3-0 series lead last week, but the Heat clinched finally clinched their first NBA Finals appearance since the 2020 “bubble” season.
The series’ coda also acted as the day the Heat exacted revenge on the Celtics, as tonight’s triumph came exactly a year to the day after the Celtics defeated Miami in the shadows of South Beach in Game 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.
“What happened last year, you know, obviously was on our mind and it drove us this year,” said Spoelstra, who has now taken the Heat to their sixth NBA Finals appearance in his 15 seasons as head coach. “That’s what you always hope for with competition, that it can drive you to a higher level. I think that’s what you saw in this series, this year, to be able to have to overcome a lot of stuff.”
Contrasting the desk-pounding Spoelstra after the Celtics’ shocking buzzer-beating victory on Saturday night that necessitated Game 7 was the calm demeanor of Jimmy Butler, who calmly asserted on multiple trips to the podium after Miami defeats in Games 5 and 6 that the Heat would eventually get that fourth win, and thus avoiding the ignominy of becoming the first team to lose a best-of-seven NBA Playoffs series after taking a 3-0 lead.