The Celtics opened up a double-digit lead and looked to be running away with a win, but backed by a raucous home crowd, Miami reclaimed twice and even had a chance to win it of late.
With the Heat trailing by two points, star striker Jimmy Butler opted to take a triple transition pointer with 14 seconds left on the clock, only to see his effort run down and hit the front of the rim.
Then Marcus Smart was fouled after Al Horford secured the rebound for the Celtics and continued to make his two free throws to secure the victory and set up a final meeting with the Golden State Warriors.
“We’ve struggled through a lot of adversity this year,” Celtics coach Im Yodoka told Reuters. “We are a resilient group and tonight seems to indicate our season.”
“It doesn’t look like we’re closing the door at all and we have to get rid of him. That’s a typical Celtics win.”
Jason Tatum, who won the inaugural Larry Bird Cup as MVP in the Eastern Conference Finals, led the Celtics with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.
For Game 7, Tatum wore a badge in the colors of Celtics’ Alder rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, and wore the number 24 from his late “idol” Kobe Bryant.
“That was my inspiration, my favorite player,” Tatum told reporters. “The shoes I’ve been wearing in the last two matches were for him.
“Today, before I took my nap – I did sometimes – I was watching some movies, some moments from him and from his career. This is the biggest game of my career so far and I wanted to wear this badge to honor him and kind of share that moment in some way.”
Tatum got a big night from Marcus Smart, who finished the match with 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Jaylene Brown, who scored 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.
As for the Heat, Butler continued his impressive playoff brilliance and led his team with 35 points and nine rebounds. Butler crossed 40 points twice during the series to push Miami into Game Seven but said he wasn’t happy with his performance on Sunday.
Not enough, Butler said. “I didn’t do my job… the stats mean nothing. The Boston Celtics came out and did what they had to do on the series.
“I learned that I have to be better and I will be better.”
Pam Adebayo, who finished the game with 25 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, summed up what Miami felt best after the game.
In a moment caught on camera, Adebayo tore off his shirt as he made his way back to the locker room and said, “F**k.”