Celtics vs. Heat score, takeaways: Boston survives rally, heads to NBA Finals after wire-to-wire Game 7 win

The Boston Celtics are heading back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 after beating the Miami Heat on the road 100-96 in Game 7 Sunday night. Jayson Tatum led the way with 26 points, and Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart added on 24 points apiece as the Celtics move on to play the Golden State Warriors for the championship, beginning with Game 1 Thursday in San Francisco.

The Celtics led wire-to-wire, and responded every time the Heat went on a run. Miami went on a late run and cut the deficit to two points, but Boston managed to hang on for the win. Jimmy Butler did most of the offensive work for Miami, finishing with 35 points while playing the entire game. But Butler alone couldn't get it done for the No. 1-seeded Heat. 

With Boston's win, Ime Udoka becomes the first rookie head coach in NBA history to win multiple Game 7s; Boston beat the Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 earlier in the East semis. 

Here's three takeaways from Boston's win over Miami in Game 7. 

1. Tatum, and Brown and Smart, oh my 

Tatum and Brown live for Game 7s. You don't believe me? Here's a stat that will blow your mind. With the win Sunday night, Tatum now improves to a 4-1 record in Game 7s, while Brown is now at a 5-1 record in Game 7s. So it's safe to say those guys shine when the lights are the brightest. Tonight was no different, as Brown and Tatum combined for 50 points. Throw in Smart's 24 points and it's pretty easy to see why the Celtics won this game. From the opening tip you could tell that the Celtics wanted to come out aggressive, and while the Heat gave Boston a scare in the final minutes of the game, it was because of the performances of Tatum, Brown and Smart that gave the C's the win. 

It's the exact type of performance you want out of your key players in a win-or-go-home contest, and the stars were out for Boston on the road. But it wasn't just the scoring that was impressive from all three players. It was the defense of Smart and Brown on Butler to not bite on his pump fake and limit the contributions of everyone else on the Heat. It was Tatum's playmaking, a much-improved skill we've seen from him this season, that led to open 3s in the corners for Boston. You could see all the improvements these core guys have been working on over the years paying off in the biggest game of their careers tonight, and it just so happened to lead to a spot in the NBA Finals. 

2. Jimmy vs. everybody

Butler played the full 48 minutes, and he put his all into his performance to try and will the Heat to a win. I feel like Butler playing the full game will probably go overlooked, but I don't think there's very many players in this league who could do what he did tonight. What's even crazier, he made it look easy. Butler looked just as spry in the closing minutes of the game as he did at opening tip, and to put the cherry on top of this crazy sundae he's been dealing with a nagging knee injury as well. 

Butler was masterful in his Game 7 performance. He got to the free-throw line essentially whenever he wanted to, as Boston struggled to contain him for the second straight game. He was hustling for rebounds, loose balls and playing the very Jimmy Butler brand of basketball the entire night without a single break longer than a timeout.  

Unfortunately, Butler's performance wasn't enough as he got minimal help outside of Bam Adebayo's 25 points. Lowry tacked on 15 points as well, but it really felt like the Butler show tonight, and that's ultimately the reason the Heat lost the game. That's not entirely surprising, given Miami has gradually cooled off over the course of this series, and when Tyler Herro tries to make a comeback after missing three games and only plays six minutes, you're kind of at a disadvantage already. Herro aside, Max Strus' shooting struggles continued as well, and while he did knock down a crucial 3-pointer at the tail end of the game to cut Boston's lead down to just a two-point lead, he ended the night going 2 for 7 on 3-pointers. 

3. Al Horford will finally get a shot at a title

Horford held the record for most playoff games (141) played without reaching the NBA Finals. But with Boston's win tonight that streak has been snapped and the veteran forward will have his first shot at a championship. Horford's made the playoffs 13 times out of his 15-year career, and has reached the conference finals three times -- once with Atlanta and twice with Boston -- prior to this but has fallen short every time. But after years of not reaching that point, Horford will have his first, and perhaps best shot at a ring. 

Although the Celtics will be facing the Warriors who open as favorites to win it all, this isn't the same Golden State team from a few years ago that were straight up embarrassing teams on a nightly basis. While the Warriors made quick work of the Dallas Mavericks in the West finals, the Celtics will present a far tougher matchup for the Warriors in the Finals. Horford will play a crucial role in trying to make life difficult for the Warriors on defense, and if he keeps knocking down 3s at a high clip like he has been all postseason long (45.6 percent), then it'll put Boston in a good spot to try and win a title for the first time since 2008.

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Season Leaders

points
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J. Tatum25.6 PTS, 6.2 AST, 6.7 REB
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J. Tatum25.6 PTS, 6.2 AST, 6.7 REB
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J. Butler27.4 PTS, 4.6 AST, 7.4 REB
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J. Butler27.4 PTS, 4.6 AST, 7.4 REB
assists
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J. Tatum25.6 PTS, 6.2 AST, 6.7 REB
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J. Tatum25.6 PTS, 6.2 AST, 6.7 REB
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K. Lowry7.8 PTS, 4.7 AST, 3.6 REB
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K. Lowry7.8 PTS, 4.7 AST, 3.6 REB
rebounds
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A. Horford12.0 PTS, 3.3 AST, 9.3 REB
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A. Horford12.0 PTS, 3.3 AST, 9.3 REB
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B. Adebayo14.8 PTS, 2.7 AST, 8.0 REB
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B. Adebayo14.8 PTS, 2.7 AST, 8.0 REB
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FINAL: Celtics 100 -- Heat 96

The Celtics are heading to the NBA Finals after finishing out a close one on the road against the Heat. Boston looked like it had the game in hand with two minutes to play, but the Heat went on an 11-0 run to get it down to a two-point Boston lead and nearly stole the game away. However, Boston got key stops down the stretch and came out on top. Jayson Tatum finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Jaylen Brown added on 24 points and six assists. Next up, facing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals which starts on Thursday. 

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Jimmy Butler on final 3-point attempt: 'My thought process was go for the win'

Although Boston controlled most of the game, Miami managed to cut the lead down to two points with 50 seconds left. The Heat then had an opportunity to either tie the game or take the lead after Butler grabbed a long rebound and pushed the ball in transition. Butler opted to pull up for a 3-pointer, but it missed and Boston was able to clinch the game. 

Butler's 3-pointer had mixed reactions, considering he hasn't been the most reliable 3-point shooter throughout his career. After the game, when asked about the play, Butler said he was trying to go for the win. "My thought process was go for the win...my teammates like the shot that I took so I'm living with it."

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Tatum: 'They said we couldn't play together'

Following their Game 7 win over the Heat to advance to the NBA Finals, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown embraced in a moment of celebration, and Tatum could be seen saying "they said we couldn't play together." Tatum was referencing the many times people around the league have talked about how the Celtics may not be able to win with both Tatum and Brown. While Boston has never come close to trading either player, it's been a topic of discussion every time the Celtics fall short in the playoffs. Now, though, Boston is heading to the NBA Finals thanks to the performances of both Tatum and Brown. 

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Heat down to one timeout

The Heat just used a timeout to challenge a call on Kyle Lowry, which they got overturned. However, they then had to immediately burn another one because Lowry fell down and was about to be tied up. Now the Heat are down to one timeout remaining with nine minutes on the clock. 

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Herro done for the night?

Ahead of Game 7 the Heat announced that Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro would be available. Right before tip Herro said that he isn't 100 percent healthy but that he would give it his all when called upon. Well, so far tonight he's only gotten six minutes of run time, all of which came in the second quarter. He didn't play at all in the third quarter, and it makes you wonder if his night may be done. 

Herro went 0-2 from the field in the six minutes he was on the floor, and with how important this game is it wouldn't be surprising to not see him out here again tonight. If Herro was 100 percent healthy Spoelstra surely would've thrown him back out there again, as his playmaking and scoring have been crucial all season long for the Heat. But his limited playing time suggests that his groin injury is limiting his ability on the court. 

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Iron Man Jimmy

Here's a crazy stat that you may not have realized: Jimmy Butler has played every minute of this game. That's insane, and while you expect your best players to be ready to go the full game with a shot at the NBA Finals on the time, I don't think there's many in the league who could do what Butler is doing right now, while also putting forth the performance we're seeing from him so far. 

Butler's up to 33 points on 63.2 percent from the field, and when Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked ahead of the fourth quarter if Butler would play the final 12 minutes as well, he said "probably, yeah. It's go time." Regardless of how this game ends, you have to respect Butler for leaving it all out there tonight. 

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Script flips at free throw line

The Celtics weren't perfect that quarter, but they did clean up all the fouling that doomed them in the second quarter. Miami only took two free throws in the third -- one was off a defensive three-second violation, another off a Kyle Lowry and-1. Boston on the other hand went 7-for-8 from the line and spent the last few minutes in the bonus. 

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End of third quarter: Celtics 82 -- Heat 75

It was a pretty clunky end to the quarter, but Boston still holds an edge entering the final 12 minutes of game 7. The Celtics got great production out of Tatum, Brown and Smart, who combined for 23 of Boston's 27 points. But Miami is still chipping away at the lead, thanks to strong performances from Lowry and Adebayo out of halftime. Boston is up seven, but this is still anyone's game entering the fourth quarter. 

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Jays keep it going in the second half

In Game 6, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each got off to a good start, but they barely did anything in the second half, which was a big factor in the Celtics' loss. Tonight, they once again excelled in the first half, but the difference so far is that they've kept it going after the break. The duo have 12 of the Celtics' 23 third-quarter points so far

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Jaylen, Jayson can play with others

Last couple of Celtics possessions: Jayson Tatum gets to the rim, finds Jaylen Brown for an easy layup; Brown attacks Bam Adebayo on a switch and makes a crosscourt pass to Marcus Smart for a 3. Brown and Tatum have five assists apiece, and Boston as a team has 16 assists on 26 made field goals. That's what Ime Udoka wants, and it's particularly impressive because it hasn't come with a side of horrible turnovers. (Miami, meanwhile, has only five assists on its 20 made field goals. It's been a lot of ISO stuff for the Heat, and a lot of free throws.)

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The Smart way

The Celtics entered the second half clinging onto a six-point lead, but it felt like momentum was shifting in Miami's favor especially with how frequently the Heat were getting to the free-throw line. But then comes Marcus Smart, who has nine points in the third quarter, including one hail mary 3-pointer that saved what was an otherwise ugly possession by Boston. Smart's up to 18 points on the night on 7 of 12 from the field and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.

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Strus' 3 taken away

Early in the second quarter, Max Strus hit a 3-pointer from the corner that rolled around the rim, hit the backboard and went in. However, it turned out that he stepped out of bounds before the shot, and the refs retroactively took it off the board. That's a huge swing

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In the mud

Miami completely changed the feel of this game in the second quarter by getting in the bonus early and then repeatedly getting to the free throw line. Boston had 13 fast break points in the first quarter and ZERO in the second -- it's hard to score in transition when the opponent is getting to the line on practically every possession. (Miami only committed one live-ball turnover in the second quarter, and that didn't even lead to a transition opportunity for the Celtics.)

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End of second quarter: Celtics 55 -- Heat 49

The Celtics built up a 17-point lead in the second quarter, but the Heat ended the quarter on an 11-2 run and cut Boston's lead down to single digits. It's shocking that Miami is only down six points given the start they had to this game. Boston was the clear aggressor in the first quarter: getting out in transition and playing tough defense on the other end. However, the Celtics put the Heat in the bonus with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, and Miami did a great job of drawing contact and getting to the line. Butler alone went 7 of 10 from the free-throw line, en route to 18 second-quarter points in the process. 

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The Jays leading the way

Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals is the time for your big players to show up, and that's just what Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are doing for the Celtics. The duo has combined for 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists already. Celtics will need them to keep it up in the second half, though. 

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Miami starting to live at the line

Uh-oh for Boston: Miami's already in the bonus with seven minutes to go in the first half. It would be an understatement to say the Celtics are having trouble defending Jimmy Butler without fouling right now -- he's 5 for 6 from the line in the second quarter.

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Heat need more out of their role players

Of the Heat's 27 points, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo account for all but five points. While Butler has carried over his standout performance from Game 6 where he put up 47 points, and Adebayo is looking more aggressive to start out the game, Miami won't be able to win this game if Max Strus, Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker can't knock in some buckets. Depending on how healthy Tyler Herro is, some scoring help from him would also be a boost for Miami. 

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Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy 

Jimmy Butler is keeping Miami in this right now -- he has played every second of this game and scored 10 of the Heat's last 12 points. I don't know if he'll have another historic performance tonight, but he has points on 5-for-8 shooting, has made all four of his free throw attempts and has not committed a single turnover.

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Herro checks in

Tyler Herro missed the last three games due to a groin strain, but pushed to be available to play today. But while he was declared available, it wasn't clear how much he'd actually get in. He didn't play at all in the first quarter, but with the Heat trailing by double digits early, Erik Spoelstra put Herro in at the beginning of the second to try and give the team a spark. 

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End of first quarter: Celtics 32 -- Heat 17

The Celtics played a near perfect quarter to open this game. They forced turnovers, got out in transition and are putting together a balanced offensive attack. The 8-0 run to end the quarter is nice cushioning as the Heat will surely adjust and shake off some nerves in the second quarter. Speaking of Miami, what a rough start. Kyle Lowry picked up two senseless fouls, the Heat have committed four turnovers, and through the first six minutes they looked like they were sleepwalking through the game. They'll have to flip a switch if they want to get back in this game and earn a berth in the NBA Finals because it's been all Celtics so far. 

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Horford comes up with incredible block

Al Horford hasn't been putting up big numbers this series, but he's still a huge part of the Celtics' defense. He proved as much once again in the first quarter tonight when he came up with an incredible block on Max Strus. The Heat forward thought he had a dunk, but Horford thought otherwise. 

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Celtics doing it by committee

Seven Celtics have played, and everyone except for Robert Williams III has made a field goal already. Also, nobody has made more than one field goal. Now that's what you call balanced offense! (Another encouraging sign for Boston: four of their six field goals have been assisted.)

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Kyle Lowry's two early fouls could be trouble for Miami

We're only halfway through the first quarter and Lowry has already picked up two fouls in this game. Both were costly mistakes for Lowry and the Heat, especially in a win-or-go-home Game 7. Lowry had a bounce-back performance in Game 6 (18 points, 10 assists) to help force a Game 7, however he fouled out of that game in the fourth quarter. If he's not careful tonight, he could find himself in the same position again. Miami can't afford to lose someone as important as Lowry, even if he's struggled heavily at times in this series.

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Celtics getting out and running

During the pre-game show, the broadcast played a clip of Celtics head coach Ime Udoka urging the team to play fast tonight. So far, they're doing just that. They're looking to push on the first opportunity, and have already scored seven fastbreak points -- as many as the Heat have in total. Big for the Celtics to get some easy looks before the Heat can set their defense 

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Boston starting aggressive out of the gate

Game 7's can sometimes lead to teams starting off pretty poorly due to nerves setting in. But the Celtics aren't having an issue putting points on the board as they're 5 of 9 to start the game and 2 of 4 from deep. Plenty of basketball left to be played, but you couldn't ask for a better start for Boston on the road here.  

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Tyler Herro not 100 percent healthy, but preparing to play

Herro, who has missed the last three games of the series for the Heat, is expected to be available in Game 7 tonight. However, the Sixth Man of the Year says that he's not 100 percent healed from his groin injury but will "give it his all" when called upon. 

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More Game 7 nuggets and notes

-Boston is 25-9 all-time in Game 7s, which is the most wins by any team.


-The Celtics seek their first Game 7 road win since the 1974 NBA Finals. They have lost four consecutive Game 7s away from Boston. 


-Erik Spoelstra is 4-0 all-time at home in Game 7s.


-This will be the second time the Celtics and Heat square off in a conference finals Game 7. Miami, led by LeBron James (31 points, 12 rebounds) won 101-88 at home in 2012.

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Celtics know how to bounce back after losses

Boston is 5-0 following a defeat this postseason, with an average win margin of 17.8 points. It's also bounced back twice vs. Miami this series with lopsided wins following a loss. Jayson Tatum has averaged 32.6 points on 51 percent shooting in five games following a loss this postseason.

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Both head coaches eyeing history with win

The Heat's Erik Spoelstra can become the seventh head coach with six Finals appearances, joining Phil Jackson (13), Red Auerbach (11), Pat Riley (nine), Gregg Popovich (six), John Kundla (six) and Steve Kerr (six). As for Ime Udoka, a Celtics victory would make him the first rookie head coach in NBA history to win multiple Game 7s (Boston beat the Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 earlier in the East semis).

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NBA Finals berth on the line

The Heat seek their second trip to the NBA Finals since 2020. The Celtics look to get back for the first time since 2010. Both teams ended up losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in their last Finals appearances.

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