5 takeaways from the Heat’s Game 7 win over the Celtics

Caleb Martin and the Heat overcame the impressive finish of Game 6 to advance to the NBA Finals.

BOSTON— The Miami Heat would not be 1 at 150-1. They blew a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals, losing Game 6 in heartbreaking fashion. They had to play Game 7 at a very rowdy TD Garden against a more talented opponent who, apparently, found himself winning three in a row.

But #HeatCulture is a real thing, and winning four games in a row isn’t easy. The Boston Celtics are yet to win four straight games from Feb. 6-12, because the Heat came to the TD Garden on Monday and left with an astonishingly dominating victory, 103-84, in Game 7. They are the second seed No. 8 (first in a full season) to reach the NBA Finals.

Series MVP Jimmy Butler rebounded from a tough Game 6 and led all scorers with 28 points, adding seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. The Celtics’ perimeter shooting didn’t bounce back from a tough Game 6, when they had their worst 3-point performance of the season (7-of-35, 20.0%). Game 7 was tied for their second worst 3-point shooting game of the season (9 of 41, 21.4%).

Here are some notes, quotes, numbers and video from a game that sent the Heat to the Finals for the seventh time in franchise history…

1. Fueled by Devastation

In 2013, the San Antonio Spurs were stripped of a championship in the waning seconds of regulation in Game 6 of the Finals. They were two up with the ball and 20 seconds left, but Kawhi Leonard missed a free throw, Chris Bosh recovered a LeBron James error, Ray Allen made one of the greatest shots in NBA history and the Heat won in overtime. .

The Spurs were devastated, but managed to bounce back over the next 48 hours and had a chance to tie Game 7 in the final minute. A year later, they dominated that same opponent in the 2014 Finals.

The Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra were on the winning side of that 2013 miracle. Ten years later, they suffered a similar devastation late in Game 6 of this series. They were leading at the buzzer, but Derrick White’s bunt was up in the air and sent this series into Game 7.

Stunned by 3 straight losses after leading 3-0, Miami comes in the clutch to avoid historic collapse.

“We feel like we did all the right things,” Spoelstra said of his team’s performance in Game 6. “So to fall short, that could pierce a team’s spirit. But instead, that led us to have more determination to try to get the job done.”

The Heat started this game slow, scoring just four points on their first 10 possessions of the first quarter. But the offense ultimately turned uglier at the other end of the floor, with the Heat taking the lead for good late in the first quarter and never looking back.

We thought the comeback story of this series was that the Celtics would possibly become the first team in NBA history to win a series they were down 3-0. Instead, it was the Heat coming back from a brutal loss to win Game 7 on the road.

“I think it sheds a lot of light on how resilient our group is,” Caleb Martin said, “how mentally engaged we are and how positive we are mentally no matter how the season has gone.

2. Bidirectional…star

butler received five of nine MVP votes. The other four went to an undrafted guy the Heat signed to a two-way contract. late in the summer of 2021. The twin the Charlotte Hornets chose not to keep.

Less than a year after signing that two-way contract, Martin was in the Heat’s playoff rotation. But he was eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics. Exactly one year later, he scored 26 points on 11-for-16 shooting in another Game 7.

Caleb Martin averaged 19.3 points in the series, shooting an astonishing 60% from the field, including 22-of-45 (49%) from 3-point range. He has a 68.4% effective field goal percentage in the playoffs, the best mark among 47 players with at least 100 field goal attempts and above 54.0% in the regular season.

For the Heat, Martin’s performance is a testament to the work he puts in and his ability to play his best no matter the circumstances.

“If you’re a true competitor, it’s in your soul,” Spoelstra said, “and that’s what Caleb is, he’s a competitor.”

Being a competitor is one thing. But Martin was making shots, and not just the ones created by your high-profile teammates. The Heat lived late on the shot clock for most of this series, and Martin got them out of sticky situations countless times, whether it was making a great shot from beyond the arc or forcing his way to the rim for a clever finisher. .

In Game 7, he took his shooting to a new level, pulling off a disputed changeup on Al Horford…

Caleb Martin shot over Al Horford

…getting Derrick White off the dribble, spinning away from the assist and draining another fadeaway from the baseline…

Fading shot by Caleb Martin

…and draining a huge missed 3-pointer when the Heat’s lead had been cut to seven late in the third quarter…

Caleb Martin triples

“That could have surprised everybody,” Butler said of Martin’s shooting. “To us, he’s a great player, a great defender, playmaker, shot maker, all of the above.

“Everyone has seen Caleb work on those takes day after day. We are not surprised. We have seen it every day. I am very proud and happy for him. I think he’s going to be even better in the next round, and I don’t think he’s going to be a surprise to anyone anymore.”

Martin was a scorer in college, but his 9.6 points per game this season made it his highest average in his four NBA seasons.

“I feel like that kind of style never leaves you,” he said of his scoring ability in college. “I knew he was going to come out at some point, but it was a great feeling to come out in a Game 7 on the road like this. It just shows you what I’m capable of, and I just want to stay locked up. I knew how they were going to protect me throughout the series, and I just want to build on that.”

3. Brutal moment

Injuries happen, and sometimes they happen at the worst time. Like the first play of Game 7, when Jayson Tatum sprained his left ankle.

One of the league’s most enduring stars in recent years, and a guy who had scored 51 points in Game 7 of the conference semifinals just 15 days earlier, was limping for the rest of the night. Well, the rest of the season.

“It bloated up and it was frustrating that I was like a shell of myself,” Tatum admitted afterwards. “It was difficult to move. Just frustrating. Especially what happened on the first play.”

Tatum had averaged a series-high 27.2 points in the first six games, but was held to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, even though he played nearly 42 minutes. The Celtics were down 11 at the half, and they didn’t even look at their star on their first possessions of the third quarter.

“Obviously, you can see that he wasn’t himself,” Marcus Smart said. “He wasn’t that explosive. The ankle was really killing him.”

The Celtics have another All-NBA player on their roster, one who is eligible to sign a five-year, $295 million extension this summer. But with the season on the line, Jaylen Brown couldn’t step up. He shot 8 of 23 (including 1 of 9 from 3-point range) and committed eight turnovers.

“Just a terrible game, when my team needed me the most,” Brown said of his performance Monday. “My team turned to me to make plays and I came up short, I missed. It’s hard. I give credit to Miami, but just a terrible job.”

4. Do not break the zone

For the second time in this series, the Celtics were blown out by the Heat’s zone defense. In Game 2, the zone helped Miami rally from two different double-digit deficits. And in Game 7, he held Boston down.

The Heat zoned for most of the second and fourth quarters. And according to Synergy’s tracking, the Celtics scored just 19 points on 34 zone possessions (0.56 per) on Monday. They had some very good zone possession, with multiple drives through the seams leading to a pace 3 for Brown…

Jalen Brown triple against zone

But those kinds of possessions were few and far between and the Celtics often shot with minimal ball movement. They also missed out on some good looks.

Offensive struggles plagued the Celtics at the other end of the court.

“When we don’t play offense well and the shots don’t drop,” said Malcolm Brogdon, “I think we lose confidence. I think that’s how the game works. But I think we lose confidence and it shows, and then we have more failures in defense because we’re not taking shots, because we stop moving the ball”.

For the series total, the Celtics’ half-court offense was much less efficient against the zone (0.76 points per possession) than it was against man-on-man (1.05), according to Synergy.

Five years ago (2017-18), no team played more than 223 zone possessions over the course of the regular season. This season, the Heat played 1,453 possessions, the most for any team in Synergy’s 17-year track record. They already have 211 possessions in the playoffs, 144 more than any other team.

And now, the zone defense has them in The Finals.

5. The switch was flipped

A reminder: The Heat were outscored by 26 points in their 82 regular-season games. Now, they will play for the championship.

Only one other team in NBA history has made it to the Finals after being blown out in the regular season. That was the 1958-59 Lakers, who made it in an eight-team league, winning just six playoff games to get there. That was also the only other team with a negative point differential in the regular season to win multiple playoff series.

The Heat are the first to win three.

The next series should be the toughest yet. The Denver Nuggets are 12-3 in these playoffs and are 8-0 at Ball Arena.

That’s where the NBA Finals will kick off on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).