Celtics prevail over Heat in Game 7, setting up NBA Finals showdown with Warriors

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart drives to the basket as Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker defends.
Boston’s Marcus Smart drives to the basket as Miami’s P.J. Tucker, left, defends during the Celtics’ 100-96 win over the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)
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Jayson Tatum scored 26 points, 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 on Sunday night and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

Al Horford added 14 rebounds for the Celtics, who never trailed on the way to pulling off a Game 7 win on the road — and not including the bubble, that was the first such victory for the storied franchise since beating Milwaukee for the 1974 NBA title.

Next up for Boston: the Golden State Warriors in a series that starts Thursday in San Francisco.


Jimmy Butler, who willed Miami into Game 7 by scoring 47 points Friday in Boston, led the Heat with 35 points in what became their season finale. Bam Adebayo added 25 for the Heat, who were down 11 with less than three minutes to go before trying one last rally.

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A 9-0 run, capped by a three-pointer from Max Strus with 51 seconds left, got the Heat to within 98-96. They had a chance for the lead with about 17 seconds to go when Butler tried a three-pointer from the right wing, but it missed — and the Celtics escaped.

Boston forced the Heat into nine consecutive misses during a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter, using that stretch to turn an 82-79 lead into a 90-79 edge — and the Celtics, who had lost each of their last four trips to the East finals, found a way to hold on.

Kyle Lowry scored 15 points for the Heat. Grant Williams finished with 11 for the Celtics.

The Celtics came out flying. The Heat came out the opposite of flying.

Boston’s lead was 32-17 after one quarter — the largest ever by a road team after 12 minutes of a Game 7, four points bigger than Golden State’s lead over the Lakers in the 1977 playoffs.

The Celtics set that tone with defense; they held Miami to 33% shooting in the opening quarter, including one for seven from three-point range, and outscored the Heat 13-4 on fast breaks.

The lead was still 15 points with 2:36 left in the half, when Miami showed signs of life.

An 11-2 run is how the Heat ended the half, the burst sparked by three-pointers from Strus and Butler, then capped by four free throws from Lowry in the final 29 seconds. Butler was up to 24 points at the break — he didn’t miss a second of play — and Miami had gotten to within 55-49 going into the third.

Miami thought it had gotten to within 56-54 when Strus rattled in a corner three early in the third. But the Celtics answered with a 9-1 run, which was even worse — the NBA replay center in Secaucus, N.J., decided that Strus had stepped out of bounds, his three came off the board while the game was going, and a 56-54 game became 65-52.