The Celtics implode in Game 7 as their comeback falls short to the Heat

Boston could not hold off Miami’s Cinderella playoff run as the No. 8 seed outclassed the No. 2 seed to advance to the NBA Finals


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It looks like it was the Miami Heat who had unfinished business as they moved on to the NBA Finals, defeating the Boston Celtics by a score of 103-84 in seven games.

“Next year, we will have enough, and we’re gonna be right back in that same situation, and we’re gonna get it done,” said Heat forward Jimmy Butler after losing Game 7 to the Celtics in 2022.

Butler backed up that statement he made a year ago with 28 points, seven rebounds, and a team-leading three steals in this year’s Game 7. On top of that, he also won the Larry Bird MVP award for the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The major turning point in this game came in the first 20 seconds, when Celtics forward Jayson Tatum rolled his ankle as he went in for a layup. Tatum was grimacing in pain almost every play throughout the rest of the game. His movement was clearly affected. 

“It’s tough because it kind of impacted me the rest of the night,” said Tatum after the game about his ankle injury. “It swelled up. It was frustrating, I was a shell of myself.”

With Tatum not being able to play at his best, the rest of the team followed suit. Along with the Celtics being 4 of 21 from three in the first half, the offense was dreadful in a win-or-go-home game. The kryptonite of the Celtics was the Heat’s 2-3 zone defense that was so effective against them within these past two playoff runs. The zone seemed to slow the Celtics’ offense down and while the Celtics did get open threes at times, they were not falling down when they needed them the most. 

When the Celtics shot 39.5% or better from three this season, they are a combined 40-2 in the playoffs and regular season. In games where they shoot 39.4%, or worse they are a combined 28-32. Live by the three and die by the three has been a mantra for the Celtics this season and they surely died by it in the deciding game.  

The Celtics’ offense wasn’t the main reason they lost; their defensive intensity was not there from the start. The Heat didn’t have to fight for anything and got easy shots left and right. Additionally, the Celtics played drop coverage defense at times, allowing the Heat to get wide-open threes to increase their lead. As the game headed to halftime the Heat built up an 11-point lead.

The third quarter did not start any better for the Celtics as they gave up a 7-2 run which made Coach Joe Mazzulla take a timeout two minutes into the quarter. After the timeout, the Celtics went on an 8-0 run all scored by Celtics guard Derrick White. It seemed that White was the only Celtic playing with urgency.

The Celtics were able to get the lead down to seven, but the Heat were still making shots to increase their lead back to double digits. Heat forward Caleb Martin was the driving force of the Heat’s offense throughout this series and stepped up big once again. Martin’s team-leading four three-pointers and 26 points set the tone for the Heat to be successful. 

The fourth quarter in the same way as the third for the Celtics, giving up a 7-0 Miami run. This is when the Celtics lost all control. The Heat ran rampant knocking down open shots and causing trouble for the Celtics’ offense. The Heat lead stretched to 23, their biggest lead in the game, and outscored the Celtics 27-18 in the final quarter. The Celtics committed 15 turnovers with 8 of them courtesy of Celtics forward Jaylen Brown.

“We failed,” said Brown in his postgame press conference. “I failed. We let the whole city down.”

The Celtics finished the playoffs with a record of 5-6 at home. Three of those home-court losses came to the Heat in this series. As the Celtics continued to struggle at home for the second straight year, another team is celebrating in TD Garden with a trophy. Above all, this was an ugly finish to the season for the Celtics that ended in heartbreak. They fell just short of a historic comeback after they were down 3-0 in the series. No team has ever been able to complete the “reverse sweep” comeback. 

A lot of questions that need to be answered for the Celtics this offseason that could see some drastic changes being made. A few of those changes include giving the supermax contract to Brown, resigning forward Grant Williams, finding ways to add more pieces to their team and most importantly adding some experience to Mazzulla’s coaching staff. Most of all the real question is, can Tatum and Brown finally piece it all together and understand what it takes to win a championship?

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