Last year the Miami Heat lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Boston Celtics. After a 3-0 lead this year against the Celtics, the Heat lost the next three and were on the verge of becoming the first team in league history to blow a 3-0 lead. However, Jimmy Butler promised to get the team over the hump a year ago, which came to fruition in Miami’s 103-84 win on Monday night.
Miami became the second number eight seed to make the NBA Finals, joining the 1999 New York Knicks. Butler led the way with 28 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in 43 minutes. His efforts earned him the Larry Bird Trophy for the Eastern Conference finals MVP.
Although the accomplishment is enormous, Butler knows the job isn’t complete. He indicated that no one is satisfied until the championship is won—four more wins to make the improbable run a reality.
Caleb Martin put on his best Andrew Toney “Boston Strangler” imitation, coming up huge for the Heat. He dropped 26 points on 11-of-16 from the floor and hauled in 10 rebounds in 45 minutes.
Boston started strong despite an ankle injury to Jayson Tatum on the game’s opening possession. Miami withstood the early push and went up 17 in the first half. Tatum had only 14 points in 42 minutes, but the key to the game was Boston’s dreadful 9-of-42 from three-point range. Miami, on the other hand, drilled half of their three-point tries. They now face their biggest challenge of the season against the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic.
After losing the first game of the play-in tournament to the Atlanta Hawks last month, Miami almost didn’t even make the playoffs. They fell behind late to the Chicago Bulls in the second play-in game. Butler rose to the occasion with 31 points and has been playing at an extremely high level ever since.
Butler’s all-time most outstanding performance came against the Bucks in the first round. He dropped 56 points in a five-point win over the number-one seed. The Heat disposed of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a mere five games and then the Knicks in six games.
What made the Heat’s run even more improbable was the fact they played without Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo due to injury. Herro was out since the first game against the Bucks and could return during the NBA Finals.
No question that Butler dominated, but the Heat don’t advance to this stage without contributions up and down the roster. Shoutouts go to Bam Adebayo, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, and Max Strus for coming up big at different stages against Boston.
Props go to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra for calling the right plays and making adjustments during the game at a moment’s notice. This continues the hardworking, never-say-die attitude that his been instilled in the team for years.
The Heat are looking for their fourth NBA Championship and first since the 2012-2013 campaign. Game one of the NBA Finals is Thursday, June 1 in Denver.
The Heat’s improbable playoff run is undeniably thrilling, but it’s also worth noting the historical moment when the Nuggets won their first NBA title in franchise history.