Miami — 2022 Eastern Conference Finals Weird. Sunday’s Game 7 went all-in under bizarre circumstances, and the Miami Heat’s wild comeback (down 13 points with 3 1/2 minutes left) was on the horizon.
The Boston Celtics nearly lost their second game in a row due to some bad decisions, but they got their third road win of the series and they will go to the Finals (for the first time in 12 years) to face the Golden State Warriors .Defense wins championships, these are The two teams with the best defense in the league this season.
1. Same situation, different choices
In the closing seconds of Game 7, Jimmy Butler threw the ball in with his team trailing by two. There was a big man between him and the rim, but he launched the offense, got to the rim and sent the ball in to tie the game.
It was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Toronto Raptors and Butler’s Philadelphia 76ers three years ago.Butler’s layup on Serge Ibaka makes it 90, but he leaves enough time for Kawhi Leonard broke philadelphia’s heart.
Three years later, Butler is in pretty much the same position.The Celtics cut a 13-point lead to 2 at 11-0 over Miami thanks to Boston and Incredible pull-up three-pointer From Max Strus. There were 22 seconds left when Butler bounced back on a Marcus Smart fumble.
MAX STRUS drain hose 3
WIN or GO HOME Game 7 on ESPN pic.twitter.com/cl0Z8QMOCT
—NBA (@NBA) May 30, 2022
Butler has been one of the worst high-volume jumpers in the league for several years. During the regular season, his effective field goal percentage from outside the paint was 36.9 percent, third among 217 players with at least 200 outside attempts.That included 8-for-42 (19 percent) on pull-up 3-pointers, tied with rookie Jalen Suggs worst mark Among 156 players with the same number of attempts.
Butler was a better jump shooter in the playoffs (45.6% effective field goal percentage), and he started 10-for-26 (38%) on rebounds in the playoffs in a balanced game and series Center dribble.
This time around, Al Horford had a better defensive position than Serge Ibaka in Philadelphia’s Game 7 vs. Toronto, when Butler was able to drive straight to the rim.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Horford said later.
This time, there are 18 seconds left, enough time to explore some options. But the Heat won’t necessarily get better shots if Horford stays in Butler’s frontcourt.butler did pull ups 3 He came from the right side of the floor when the Celtics didn’t pick him up early in the game.
He played the whole game. Didn’t sit for a second.
He went for the lead.
“That’s the right look,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “I just thought, when it gets out of his hand, I think it’s definitely going to go down. It’s a Nice, clean look, definitely better than anything we could design.”
“He saw it very well,” Horford added. “It was nerve-wracking. He stopped, anything could happen there.”
If it gets in, the Heat could have one of the greatest comebacks we’ve ever seen in this situation. And the Celtics, oh my gosh…they lead the series 3-2 and have a chance to end the game at home. They screwed up in the final minutes of two straight games.
But Butler’s shot was short. Horford grabbed the rebound and Marcus Smart (the Celtics leader in a poor fourth-quarter decision) made 2 of 2 from the free throw line to seal the win.
“My idea is to win,” Butler said. “Missed a shot. But I was taking that photo. My teammates loved my shot. So I lived with it.”
— John Schumann (@johnschuhmann) May 30, 2022
It certainly was probably the best shot the Heat could get. But it will remain a fascinating “what if” for the time to come.
2. On the way home
Because they lost Game 6 at home, the Celtics need to win Game 7 on the road. Before Sunday, the road team was just 32-108 (0.229) in Game 7.
Only seven teams in playoff history have won eight or more away games, and five of those seven have won championships. Given that the Warriors have home-court advantage in the Finals, the Celtics need at least one road win to earn the No. 18 banner.
Warriors are 9-0 at home In these playoffs, the Celtics may face their toughest task yet as they head to San Francisco for Games 1 and 2. But they have been well tested, surviving a series against the defending champions and the No. 1 seed in the East.
“Today was the biggest test, not just this year, but our career,” Jaylen Brown said of Miami’s Game 7, “Going into Game 7 mentally after a home loss , it was tough. And we did it.”
And home-court advantage in Game 7 appears to be fading. Going back to Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, the away team has won 7 of the last 11 Game 7s outside the 2020 bubble.
3. Not enough offense for the Heat
When the season started, it was clear that the Heat would be a tough defensive team. But it’s unclear if they’ll be able to score effectively to win the Eastern Conference.
But the Heat’s offense wasn’t enough when it came time to win two games to get to the Finals.In games 4 and 5, they held Less than 90 points per 100 possessions. In Game 7, they went 97-96 (99.0 points per 100 minutes).
The ups and downs of this series were more about the Heat’s offense than the Celtics’ offense. Miami has scored 116.6 points per 100 possessions in three wins and just 96.3 points per 100 possessions in four losses.
It was a poor start, with the Heat scoring just 17 points on 25 possessions in the first quarter. When they cut a 17-point deficit to three with less than 11 minutes left, they cooled off again, going eight straight possessions without a point.
Butler (35 points on 13-24 shooting) was outstanding, and Bam Adebayo (25 points on 12-for-21 shooting) played one of his better offensive games. But the Heat didn’t get much beyond, and their ball movement was stifled. Their 226 passes in Game 7 were the lowest of the season.
Thanks to the Celtics defense, of course. It’s been great all season, and that’s the biggest reason Boston is still playing. The Heat have scored less than 1 point per possession in 5 of 10 games against the Celtics this season and 8 in 90 games against 28 other teams.
4. Tatum found a way
Jayson Tatum wins First-ever Larry Bird Trophy As the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, the series averaged 25.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists. But he was quiet for the second time in a row in the second half on Sunday as the Heat double-teamed him at every opportunity.
As the Celtics went five straight in the third and fourth quarters without a point, their lead was cut to three. The Celtics called a timeout with 10:56 left, and it was unclear whether their star could find a way to score against multiple defenders.
On the first possession after the timeout, Tatum made an “Iverson cut” on the left side of the floor, and Gabe Vincent switched to him. But he had the ball for a few seconds, and eventually, Victor Oladipo came with another double.Tatum passes, Derrick White missed a float on the driveway.
But Tatum didn’t let the Heat double him on the following possession. The ball was passed to him from the left and he quickly turned away from Horford’s screen to step on Struth and draw a foul…
On the next possession, Smart passed the ball to a trailing Tatum. Once again, Tatum didn’t hesitate to attack Vincent, get help and pass the ball to Grant Williams for a layup.
It was the crucial two possessions, and the Celtics had a little cushion after seeing the big lead become a one-handed game. Tatum will throw two more shots late in the fourth quarter, late back 3 The Celtics had a 13-point lead with 5:54 remaining. turnaround jumper (again when shooting time runs out) put them at 10 with 4:28 left.
Great performance from the Celtics star.
Those 141 playoff games are the most by any player in NBA history without reaching the Finals. Now, the record holder will be Horford’s former teammate Paul Millsap (130).
This is Horford’s fourth Eastern Conference finals appearance. He finally broke through, which obviously meant a lot to him. When the whistle blew at the end of Game 7, Horford fell to his knees emotionally.
“Just don’t know how to act,” he said. “Just caught up, excited. A lot of hard work. I’ve been on a lot of great teams, a lot of great teammates and I’m so proud of this team.
It’s all love for OG 💚 pic.twitter.com/6PzAFTU3HS
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 30, 2022
“It’s special for me to be with them and to be able to help them and be a part of it. I’m really grateful to be in this position.”
This is a very remarkable story. Horford, who turns 36 this week, traveled to Philadelphia in free agency three years ago. He didn’t fit in there and was traded to Oklahoma City, where he played well in the final 28 games of last season.
Celtics bring him back last summer, and Horford was a big part of their success.In the playoffs, he Best Switching Differential (The Celtics are scoring 11.2 points per 100 possessions in the rotation, and he’s better on the court than he is off the court).
Tonight we celebrate ☘️☘️☘️ pic.twitter.com/RLgmc1k9dk
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 30, 2022
“When he came back,” Smart said, “it gave us a sense of security. We got Al back there and he was always going to do the right thing on both ends of the floor and he would calm us down. , he will show us what we missed and he will help us learn more about the game.”
Horford missed Game 1 of the series after testing positive for COVID-19, but he averaged 37.3 minutes per game in the final six games, solidifying the defense and playing a key role on offense.
“He’s played 44 minutes at this stage of his career,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said, “and was all-out defending bigs, smalls and everything in between, his leadership The power speaks for itself. A man of character, but often leading by example, and I think everyone has some kind of connection to him.”
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