MIAMI — The Celtics beat the Heat, 100-96, in Game 7 on Sunday to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years.
Boston will face the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series beginning Thursday in San Francisco. (See the full schedule here.)
After getting out to a quick lead, the Celtics allowed Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to claw Miami back into contention. Just a minute into the fourth quarter, the Heat were only down three.
Boston broke out to a 10-point lead with four minutes to play, and Jayson Tatum made two key shots — a three and a jumper as the clock expired — to cushion the Celtics.
Butler led all scorers with 35 points on 13-24 shooting, another huge performance for the veteran when his teammates’ backs were against the wall. Adebayo had 25 on 12-21 shooting.
Tatum led the Celtics with 26 points while shooting 9-21 from the field. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each scored 24. (See the box score.)
Chad Finn’s final takeaways
The Celtics are heading to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, beating the Miami Heat 100-96 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and they did it in their typical fashion: by overcoming adversity, some self-inflicted, to pull off a thrilling win.
Jayson Tatum scores 26 points, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each had 24, and the Celtics survived a close call that included a missed Jimmy Butler pull-up 3-pointer that would have given the Heat a one-point lead with 16.6 seconds left. Smart iced the victory with a pair of free throws with 11.4 second left. The Celtics led all the way, even building a 17-point lead in the first quarter, but the Heat went on an 11-0 run to cut a 98-85 Celtics lead to 98-96 from the 3:35 mark until Smart’s clinching free throws. It’s OK to exhale now.
Three other thoughts:
▪ That was the quintessential Marcus Smart performance: 24 points on 8 of 22 shooting, 3 of 10 from 3 (including three misses in a span of 75 seconds down the stretch), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and just one turnover. He also scored their last four points, all on free throws, over the final 3:35.
▪ Ime Udoka made a point to praise Robert Williams in his postgame remarks. Williams scored 2 points and had 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. Take Udoka’s words as a sign that Williams is playing through injury and pain.
▪ Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined to shoot 25 of 45. The rest of the Heat were 12 for 43.
Read more Celtics stories
Check out all the Globe’s coverage from Game 7:
- ‘Feels like it was always meant to be this way:’ How the Celtics escaped the Heat and set up a seismic NBA Finals
- Dan Shaughnessy: Finally, the Celtics earn their chance to bring another championship to Boston
- On Basketball: When things got tough, this Celtics team got tough — and they finally proved they belong with the elite
- Instant analysis: Celtics claw out a Game 7 they never trailed, and other observations
- As Celtics celebrate NBA Finals berth, Ime Udoka reminds the world: Don’t forget about Uvalde
- Celtics-Warriors NBA Finals series tips off Thursday in San Francisco; see the schedule
- Four things to know about the Warriors, the Celtics’ opponent in the 2022 NBA Finals
- Jayson Tatum, sporting No. 24 band in honor of Kobe Bryant, wins inaugural Larry Bird trophy
- Jimmy Butler nearly carried the Heat to the NBA Finals, but can’t deny it: Celtics ‘deserve the win’
On Basketball: These are not the same ol’ Celtics — 1:00 a.m.
By Gary Washburn
They have finally overcome their past demons, past Game 7 horrors, past insecurities and lack of confidence that they weren’t good enough to beat the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
They are the elite team in the Eastern Conference.
After a disheartening Game 6 loss, the Celtics punched first in Game 7 Sunday night at FTX Arena, led the Heat the entire way and then barely clung to their lead in the final minutes. But they made enough plays, got out of their own way and carried enough guile to prevail.
How did they do it? After playing such a poor Game 6 in Boston, handing the Heat all the momentum? They reverted back to themselves, playing strong defense, moving the ball and reducing mistakes. They led by as many as 17 points, and then watched in total fear as Jimmy Butler pulled up for a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.6 seconds left.
Perhaps the ball goes in two years ago or four years ago, but it rimmed out. Marcus Smart, whose hyper play and lack of poise at times caused them to nearly blow a 13-point lead, sank two free throws 11.4 seconds left to seal it. It was apropos.
Inside the long, winding, sometimes tragic journey Ime Udoka took to the Celtics — 12:45 a.m.
Just getting to know the Celtics? Read this Adam Himmelsbach profile on head man Ime Udoka’s fascinating journey to the NBA.
Tatum sports No. 24 band in honor of Kobe en route to winning Larry Bird trophy — 12:30 a.m.
By Conor Roche
It’s fitting that a Celtic is the inaugural winner of the Larry Bird trophy.
Jayson Tatum, Boston’s star forward, received the trophy on the court at FTX Arena after being voted the most valuable player in the Eastern Conference finals following the Celtics’ Game 7 win on Sunday.
Tatum scored a team-high 26 points on 9-of-21 shooting with 10 rebounds and six assists in the 100-96 victory. Throughout the series, the 24-year-old averaged 25 points per game on 46 percent shooting, to go with 8.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
While Tatum was honored with an award named after a Celtic legend, he honored a Lakers legend during the game: Tatum wore a purple armband with “24″ on it, an homage to Kobe Bryant.
“Game 7,” Tatum said when asked on why he wore the armband. “Everyone knows how much he means to me. He’s my idol and my favorite player. Just to have something to show him in the biggest game of my career so far, and it worked out.”
What to know about the Warriors — 12:05 a.m.
By Nicole Yang
It took seven games, but the Celtics punched their ticket to the NBA Finals Sunday night with a 100-96 win over Miami.
They’ll have just three days off before Game 1 of the Finals tips off Thursday evening in San Francisco against the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors.
Shaughnessy: Finally, the Celtics earn their chance to bring another championship to Boston — 11:55 p.m.
By Dan Shaughnessy
Remember all the parades between 2002 and 2019 . . . back in the good old days before COVID-19?
The Celtics earned a ticket to the 2022 NBA Finals with a thrilling, smashmouth, wire-to-wire, 100-96 Game 7 victory over the top-seeded Heat in FTX Arena in Miami Sunday night. Boston led the entire game and staved off a furious late-game comeback by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
This means that after three, predominantly pandemic-plagued years, confetti could rain on Boylston Street next month for the first time since Tom Brady beat the Rams to win a Super Bowl in February 2019.
Adam Himmelsbach’s observations — 11:45 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
The Celtics understand little has come easily this season, and they say they would have it no other way.
So when the Heat charged back from a 13-point deficit with less than four minutes left in regulation in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Boston had to do it once more. But this team, despite its flaws, is remarkably resilient, and it provided the most important example Sunday, doing just enough to hang on for a 100-96 win and advance to the NBA Finals.
When the final buzzer sounded Sunday, players from Boston’s bench streamed on the court in celebration. Al Horford, who will make the first Finals appearance of his lengthy career, collapsed as he was overcome by emotion, before his teammates came and picked him up.
📸 Celtics celebrate — 11:35 p.m.
Here’s some photos from the joy at FTX Arena:
NBA Finals schedule is set — 11:31 p.m.
All times Eastern
Game 1: Celtics at Warriors
Thursday, June 2, 9 p.m., ABC
Game 2: Celtics at Warriors
Sunday, June 5, 8 p.m., ABC
Game 3: Warriors at Celtics
Wednesday, June 8, 9 p.m., ABC
Game 4: Warriors at Celtics
Friday, June 10, 9 p.m., ABC
Game 5: Celtics at Warriors
Monday, June 13, 9 p.m., ABC (if necessary)
Game 6: Warriors at Celtics
Thursday, June 16, 9 p.m., ABC (if necessary)
Game 7: Celtics at Warriors
Sunday, June 19, 8 p.m., ABC (if necessary)
Celtics fans are showing up — 11:29 p.m.
FTX Arena is dead (predictably) but there is a small but might contingent of Celtics fans who headed as close to the court as they could get. “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band is playing on the PA.
Tatum wins the ECF MVP trophy — 11:26 p.m.
Cedric Maxwell presented the Larry Bird ECF MVP trophy to Jayson Tatum, who scored 26 points tonight.
What we’re thinking (and seeing) at the end — 11:20 p.m.
Yang: That retroactively overturned Max Strus three looms large.
Thurston: First Finals appearance for Horford.
Finn: And Al fittingly gets the last rebound.
Thurston: Celtics donning the white Eastern Conference champions T-shirts.
Celtics win — 11:15 p.m.
It’s on to Golden State!
The Celtics are in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
Wow, wow, wow. 11.4 to play. — 11:13 p.m.
Yang: Wow. Jimmy Butler went for the win. I’m shocked he didn’t let the clock run out more to take the final shot with no time left. The Heat were only down by two, too, so he didn’t need the three.
Scoring update: 50.7, fourth quarter — 11:09 p.m.
Celtics 98, Heat 93
Finn: Oladipo has been playing hero ball. And so has Smart.
Tatum wants to pull away — 11:04 p.m.
Thurston: Tatum wants the ball, too. This is what Celtics fans want to see. A couple of big baskets.
Yang: Jayson Tatum heard you guys and stepped up. His last two buckets — a three and a jumper as the shot clock expired — were clutch.
Finn: That shot-clock beating jumper on the inbounds was as pretty as it was crucial.
Nicole, you were right about Herro. He’s played 7 minutes.
Scoring update: 5:05, fourth quarter — 11:00 p.m.
Celtics 93, Heat 85
Finn: Celtics have a chance to build on this lead, but they’re not seizing it so far. Heat has gone cold, missing last nine.
Heat burn a TO — 10:56 p.m.
Yang: The Heat have to burn a timeout because Kyle Lowry fell to the floor while dribbling and now have just one timeout remaining for the final 8:56 of the game.
Finn: Lowry looked like he was expecting contact from Grant Williams, and Grant pulled the chair on him. Smart play.
Yang: The Heat’s offense right now just seems like they’re trying to draw calls. Jimmy Butler’s last two shots have just been thrown up in hopes of getting a whistle.
Spo is challenging — 10:52 p.m.
Yang: Erik Spoelstra is using his challenge with 9:18 to go and his team down 7. Officials ruled a blocking foul on Kyle Lowry, but overturned it to a charge. Lowry avoids his fifth foul and instead Jaylen Brown picks up his fourth. Heat ball.
Score update: 10:56, fourth quarter — 10:45 p.m.
Celtics 82, Heat 79 😬
Yang: Well, 64 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Heat have already cut it to three and have me questioning my thoughts. Jimmy Butler still has yet to sit and will certainly play the entire game. Will the fatigue set it? Seems unlikely.
Thurston: Butler is making a statement. Adebayo has 23, but there is nobody else.
Finn: The Heat have been aggressive all series in trying to jar the ball loose when Rob Williams gathers to go up. Strus whacks the ball loose when Williams looked to be going up for a dunk, Butler converts on the other end, and it’s down to a possession.
Yang: By the way, the Celtics have just two timeouts left for the final 10:56 of the game. Heat have three.
Finn: I just had a premonition. This game ends with the Celtics down 2 and Marcus Smart taking a 3. I’ve seen the outcome, but I’m not telling you.
Thurston: Celtics need the guy who’s all-NBA to take this over. An important 10 minutes for Tatum.
Start of fourth quarter predictions — 10:40 p.m.
Yang: Celtics by 6.
Thurston: Heat cover.
Finn: Celts by 8. But if it’s a game that comes down to the final possession ... yikes.
End of third quarter: Celtics 82, Heat 75 — 10:37 p.m.
Finn: Celtics are going to need Horford or Grant Williams to hit a 3 at some point.
Yang: Bad shot by Marcus Smart followed by another bad shot by Victor Oladipo. Why not pass the ball to Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo when you can attempt a 35-footer yourself?
Why the Heat are still in it — 10:33 p.m.
Yang: Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are doing their part. The duo is a combined 20 of 32 from the field for 50 points. The rest of the Heat are 4 of 21 for 17 points.
Finn: Jaylen has been excellent when he’s in attack mode tonight. He’s made 6 of his 8 2-point attempts and all 6 free throws, but just 1 of 5 from 3. Leads the Celtics with 21 points.
McInerney: An interesting stat from ESPN Stats and Info: The Heat are 13-4 this season when Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each score 20 or more in the same game. (Butler has 29, Adebayo 21 near the end of the third quarter).
Yang: Another mini swing: The Heat forced a near shot clock violation, but referees deemed Grant Williams’s last-second, desperation bucket good. Instead of being down 8 with the ball, the Heat still trailed by 10.
Tatum can get it going, but it needs to happen soon — 10:27 p.m.
Finn: Tatum is now 6 for 17 after missing a couple of makeable shots from close range, and a 7-0 Heat run cuts the Celtics lead to 7. Feel like he’s going to get it going, but it needs to happen soon.
Yang: The Celtics will be in the bonus for the final 4:42 of the third quarter. That should help them maintain their cushion.
Scoring update: 5:16, third quarter — 10:23 p.m.
Celtics 72, Heat 65
Yang: Ha, the Heat started reading the blog. Seven-point game now.
Is this one over? Hmm ... — 10:21 p.m.
Celtics 72, Heat 58
Thurston: Good things happen when you take it to the basket; opens up everything. Stay aggressive. Solid response.
Yang: I’m debating whether I should declare this game over. There’s still more than six minutes to go in the third quarter, but I think the Heat missed their chance to make this one a game. They managed to head into halftime only down by six, so I thought they would open the third quarter by taking charge. Instead, the Celtics have outscored them 17-9.
Finn: As I was saying, Marcus Smart reminds me of vintage Ray Allen. He’s now 7 of 12 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3.
If you declare this game over, I’m driving to Miami to shake my head disapprovingly at you declaring this game over. You know what this team does, for better and worse.
Scoring update: 7:40, third quarter — 10:16 p.m.
Celtics 67, Heat 56
Yang: They just retroactively removed a three from Max Strus because he was out of bounds.
Finn: One thing that suggest Rob’s knee isn’t right: he’s missing short a lot from close range.
I don’t like retroactively taking away points. And the replay they showed on TV didn’t confirm he was out.
Rob Williams is starting the third quarter — 10:08 p.m.
Yang: Robert Williams is on the court to start the second half. For the past two games, Williams has taken extra time in the locker room to get stretched out. I wonder if the change speaks to the magnitude of the game or an improvement in Rob’s status. I imagine the former?
What the Celtics need to change entering the second half — 10:02 p.m.
Yang: It’s past time to double Butler.
It should come as no surprise that Jimmy Butler played all 24 minutes in the first half. He made 8 of his 11 field goal attempts for 24 points, but missed four free throws. I expect him to play every minute of the second half, too, so we’ll see whether the fatigue ends up hitting him.
Finn: I almost don’t want them to contest his shots. He’s a mediocre shooter, but one with an uncanny knack for drawing contact anytime he wants. My strategy is a stupid one, of course, but that how frustrated he can make you.
The Celtics have 24 minutes to prove all of these lessons we think they’ve learned since January are real.
Stat check — 9:56 p.m.
Tatum: 13 points, 5-13 FG, 3-6 3PT, 7 rebounds
Brown: 15 points, 5-11 FG, 1-5 3PT, 5 rebounds
Butler: 24 points, 8-11 FG, 1-2 3PT
Abedayo: 11 points, 5-10 FG
At the half: Celtics 55, Heat 49 — 9:50 p.m.
Yang: The Heat finish the second quarter on a 10-2 run, capping a disastrous end to the half for the Celtics. Miami is down just six now. The third quarter has been an issue for the Celtics, but they’ll need to set the tone early. I imagine Ime Udoka is not pleased in the locker room right now.
Finn: Just a dumb second quarter for the Celtics. Settling for 3-pointers, way too many fouls. They’re up 6, but it should be twice that.
Ime needs to talk to Smart about his shot selection. You’re a point guard. Be one.
Thurston: Celtics had a chance to really put this one away — they totally got away from running their offense and taking it to the basket. And what to do with Butler on the other end? They need to make the other guys beat them.
Pedal to the metal — 9:47 p.m.
Yang: The Celtics are doing a good job of maintaining their lead whenever the Heat look as though they could pull within single digits. The Heat, meanwhile, are doing a good job and hanging around so that the Celtics can not pull away by 20 or more. I will repeat myself: the Celtics need to keep their feet on the gas. Otherwise, the Heat will be ready to capitalize.
Finn: Remember when the Celtics were pushing the tempo? Five of their last six shot attempts have been 3s.
Yang: Al Horford, Grant Williams, and Derrick White all have three fouls. How fast they put up their fourth in the second half will be worth monitoring.
You can’t let Jimmy Butler do that — 9:45 p.m.
The Celtics have had a loooot of chances to go up 18-20 and are instead up nine.— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) May 30, 2022
And a good sign for the Celtics — 9:42 p.m.
Yang: Jimmy Butler misses both free throws at the line — a rare sight and probably a sign of his fatigue. That bodes well for the Celtics.
Finn: Interesting Heat lineup, with Oladipo, Lowry, and Strus out there with Butler and Bam.
Thurston: Butler single-handedly keeping the Heat in this one, 21 of the team’s 38 and aggressively attacking the basket. Let’s see how Ime adjusts to this at the half.
A good day for the Js so far — 9:38 p.m.
Finn: I may regret saying this, but neither Tatum nor Brown have a turnover so far. (At least according to the NBA.com box score.) Tatum is just 4 of 11, but is playing a very poised game so far, and leads the Celtics with four assists, which is twice as many as the Heat have as a TEAM.
Yang: The fact that Tatum is playing a poised game while he is shooting poorly is a positive development.
Scoring update: 5:18, second quarter — 9:35 p.m.
Celtics 45, Heat 32
Yang: Nice response from Tatum there. With the crowd on its feet, cheering loudly after the Heat cut Boston’s lead to single digits, he powered his way to the rim and drew a foul. Too bad he missed the free throw and couldn’t complete the And-1.
Mini swing there: Gabe Vincent drilled a three right as the shot clock was expiring, but the referees whistled that he didn’t get it off in time. Then, on the other end, Jayson Tatum found a wide-open Marcus Smart for an easy floater. 45-32 Celtics instead of 42-35.
Where’s Rob Williams? — 9:32 p.m.
Finn: You know who has been invisible so far? Rob Williams. Missed lone shot, 2 rebounds, no blocks, and a bad reaching foul that gave Butler an and-1 in 9-plus minutes.
Yang: I think Rob’s knee is still bugging him big-time. He’s been impactful for the Celtics, even while injured, so I don’t question why they make him active, but I am slightly concerned about the long-term implications. Rob already doesn’t have the best injury history.
Finn: That’s a really good point. I’m still worried that having the operation that got him back early will be something that’s regretted down the road. Of course, if they keep on winning ...
Scoring update: 7:21, second quarter — 9:28 p.m.
Celtics 39, Heat 27
Thurston: Nicole mentioned the Celtics need to keep their foot on the gas. She’s right — they are letting the Heat hang around.
Yang: Kyle Lowry does not look great in this one — getting toasted on defense and missing all five of his shots — so Erik Spoelstra may want to consider giving Gabe Vincent more minutes instead. Lowry, still battling his nagging hamstring injury, was awful in Games 4 and 5 but returned closer to peak form in Game 6.
Finn: The Celtics are settling for mediocre 3s. Even the one Jaylen made a few minutes ago to make it 37-22 was not a great idea.
Yang: Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are a combined 9 of 15 from the field (60 percent) for 22 points. The rest of the Heat are 1 of 13. That’s not going to cut it, especially when Miami is already down 12.
Finn: I’d watch an alternate broadcast where it was just Ime alternately inspiring and cursing out his team.
Grant has three fouls — 9:25 p.m.
Yang: Grant Williams just picked up his third personal foul with 9:06 remaining in the second quarter, and Miami will be in the bonus for the remainder of the quarter. The Heat haven’t been making their free throws (5 of 9) but getting to the line would be one avenue to claw back into this game.
With Mike Breen out, how’s the broadcast? — 9:23 p.m.
Thurston: How’s the Breen replacement holding up?
Finn: It’s Mark Jones, the No. 2 guy who has been doing the series with Doris on the radio. He’s a little catchphrase-happy, but I like how he calls a game. Good-natured style counters Van Gundy’s obvious self-loathing.
Stat Masterson weighs in, and it bodes well for Boston — 9:18 p.m.
Our colleague Alex Speier shared a fun fact with us: No team in NBA history has lost a game 7 after leading by at least 15 after one quarter.
No team in NBA history has lost a Game 7 after leading by at least 15 after one quarter. Teams that led by 10+ after one quarter are 21-5. Largest first-quarter lead ever to precede a G7 loss was 13 points, by the Suns against the Rockets in 1995.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) May 30, 2022
Tyler Herro checks in, and the crowd goes wild — 9:16 p.m.
Yang: Wow. Never mind. Here comes Tyler Herro. He received a giant ovation upon checking in. We’ll see how much he can do.
Thurston: Heat are 1 for 8 from 3-point range; a big swing from Game 5.
Finn: We’re getting the Pritchard-Herro showdown that America didn’t know it needed.
Thurston: Don’t try to be a Herro.
End of first quarter: Celtics 32, Heat 17 — 9:11 p.m.
Yang: With a 15-point lead at the end of the first quarter, it’s up to the Celtics to keep their feet on the gas.
I firmly believe they are a better team than the Heat and should win this game, but the Heat are mentally tougher. They’ve just often been unable to execute this series because of injuries (and Boston’s defense).
“Who wants it more” generally feels like a sports cliche, but it really feels as though that was the difference in Game 6.
Thurston: Good Celtics defense on display, especially late in the quarter. Horford such a key there.
Finn: Horford and Tatum played all 12 minutes.
Celtics need something else out of Smart — 9:06 p.m.
Finn: Marcus Smart has taken four shots so far — second-most to Tatum among Celtics — and has just one assist. He’s also launched three of their seven 3-point attempts. That’s not the game they need him to play.
Thurston: A 10-point game (24-14) with 2:53 left in the quarter. It feels as if the Celtics should be up 16.
Finn: That Tatum miss on a 3-on-1 (bad pass from Smart) is one to note if the Heat get back into this. Butler scored on the other end. Made it 24-11, and now the Vincent 4-point play makes it 24-15.
Watch: A big block from Big Al — 9:04 p.m.
We’ve got TWO angles!
Scoring update: 3:15, first quarter — 9:03 p.m.
Celtics 24, Heat 11
Finn: Pretty funny that Tatum got an open 3 because P.J. Tucker was arguing with the refs. That’s the Celtics move!
First round of subs for the Heat — 9:00 p.m.
Yang: The Heat make their first round of subs, and Tyler Herro does not check in. I am skeptical that he will play.
Finn: I’m with you, Nicole. Suspect there’s some gamesmanship by saying he’s active. Kind of like Rob Williams for a game in the Bucks series.
What we’re seeing so far — 8:57 p.m.
Finn: Celtics are really trying (and succeeding so far) to push the tempo. Tatum waved at Robert Williams to hurry up when he was slow getting the ball inbounds after a make. He wanted to run.
Thurston: I like the aggressiveness early, Chad. Use the size advantage and keep attacking Strus.
Yang: For Game 7, Jayson Tatum broke out a purple armband with the No. 24 on it. His love for the late Kobe Bryant is well-documented.
Finn: This is where I write another column suggesting he should try to emulate Kevin Garnett rather than Kobe, and the Lakers fans light my mentions and possibly my car on fire.
Yang: Pretty much a dream start for the Celtics. Midway through the first quarter, they’ve already jumped out to an early 10-point lead. More importantly, they’ve only turned over the ball once.
Scoring update: 9:00, first quarter — 8:51 p.m.
Celtics 9, Heat 1.
Jaylen Brown has four points; Marcus Smart has 3.
And we’re off. But what should we expect from Herro? — 8:45 p.m.
Yang: As for Tyler Herro’s return, I wonder how much he’ll actually be able to play. His offensive spark off the bench is certainly valuable, but the Heat players taking his minutes — Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo — have been serviceable. If Herro gives it a go and looks anything but 100 percent, I assume Erik Spoelstra will pull the plug early. If he stays in the game, I expect the Celtics to pick on his defensive limitations relentlessly.
Finn: It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly the Celtics try to get a favorable offensive matchup on him when he checks in. I’m going five seconds into the first possession.
Finn’s two big questions for the Celtics — 8:40 p.m.
By Chad Finn
1. Will Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown play aggressively yet under control?
If you had looked at a box score and saw that Tatum scored 30 points on 9 of 12 shooting, you’d assume it was an excellent and efficient performance, one that likely led to a Celtics win. That was his stat line in Game 6 and ... it did not lead to a Celtics win, in part because he took just two shots in the fourth quarter. Tatum has done a good job for the most part in the second half of the season in involving his teammates and resisting iso ball. But he cannot go so far as allowing himself to be taken out of the game as a scoring threat, especially now that it’s Game 7. I expect him to rise to the occasion. I’m more concerned about Brown, who scored just 2 points in the second half in Game 6, both on free throws, and played dismally down the stretch, missing a pair of free throws and charging into Victor Oladipo on a dunk attempt when the Celtics desperately needed a 3-pointer. Tatum has more turnovers than Brown in this series, but Brown’s have generally been more exasperating, and when he’s asked about them, he’s indicated he’s not getting foul calls. Maybe so, but they’re foolish plays. Both of the Celtics’ stars need to play well — and with poise.
2. Marcus Smart needs to play better on both ends. (OK, that one’s not a question)
In Game 3, Smart rolled his ankle at what looked like a 90-degree angle. It was ugly, and inspiring that he returned later in the game. But he missed Game 4, and it’s clear the injury — which would probably keep him out a couple of weeks in the regular season — is affecting his play. There was no shame in struggling to contain Jimmy Butler in Game 6 — Butler scored 14 of his points during the 35 possessions Smart defended him — but he hasn’t been making (or been able to make) those trademark hustle plays. And offensively, his decision-making has to be on point. It wasn’t in Game 6, when he took a team-high 15 shots. A few of those were late-in-the-shot-clock heaves, but others were just plain bad looks. He needs to make sure Brown and particularly Tatum get their touches, and he needs to help the Celtics’ other players who struggled in Game 6 (Al Horford, Grant Williams) get good looks. The Celtics must have Good Marcus tonight, even if he is not anywhere near Healthy Marcus.
Yang’s two big questions for the Heat — 8:35 p.m.
By Nicole Yang
My two big questions for the Heat are…
1. Can Jimmy Butler do it again?
Butler willed his team to victory in Game 6, scoring 47 points and knocking down some ridiculous shots. After looking hobbled by his right knee (he was dealing with inflammation in Games 4 and 5) Butler came back to life and did everything he does best.
Not only was he getting to line and attacking the basket, but he also made 4 of his 8 shots from behind the arc. The 3-point shooting is not a primary element of Butler’s game, but even if he just sticks to his bread and butter — operating efficiently in the mid-range and drawing contact — the Heat are going to be in good shape.
The question is: How will 46 minutes in Game 6 impact his banged-up knee?
2. Can the rest of the Heat make their 3-pointers?
Butler will get all the headlines — and deservedly so — but a key part of Miami’s win Friday was their 3-point shooting. After finishing the regular season with the best 3-point percentage (37.9) in the league, the Heat have struggled to shoot from range this postseason. In the conference semifinals against Philadelphia, they made just 29.8 percent of their 3-point attempts. In Games 1-5 against Boston, they made just 29.2 percent. In Game 6, however, they connected on 42.9 percent, including some makes with little time left on the shot clock.
What does the FTX Arena scoreboard have to do with Boston? — 8:30 p.m.
Fun fact about the FTX Arena scoreboard: It was designed by Boston-based artist (and Celtics fan) Christopher Janney. When he agreed to the project in 1999, he stipulated “two tickets in perpetuity” as part of the payment. Pretty sweet deal. pic.twitter.com/Mrnwp5t3F2— Nicole Yang (@nicolecyang) May 30, 2022
The vibe inside FTX Arena — 8:20 p.m.
The Celtics just took the court for a few more warm-up drills, to a smattering of boos — but you can’t hear much over the DJ.
The clock reads about 14 minutes until it’s time to start pregame introductions.
Why the Celtics skipped shootaround — 8:00 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
The Celtics have generally stuck with routines during this postseason, but coach Ime Udoka altered them slightly on Sunday, when he cancelled his team’s morning shootaround before Game 7 of the conference finals against the Heat.
Boston had held shootarounds prior to each late game of this postseason.
“Fresh legs, energy, juice,” Udoka said. “The series is what it is. There’s no surprises from either side, and we want energy. It was optional, but a lot of the guys go in and get shots, anyway. Get out of the monotony of doing the same thing and keeping our legs and fresh energy for tonight.”
This is Boston’s second consecutive seven-game series, and games have been played every other day throughout. Star forwards Jayson Tatum (693) and Jaylen Brown (643) entered the night second and fourth in the NBA in postseason minutes played.
Also, guard Marcus Smart has been battling an ankle sprain, and Udoka said center Robert Williams will likely be listed as questionable for the remainder of these playoffs as he continues to work through expected knee tightness following March 30 surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
What to watch: Derrick White’s impact — 7:30 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
Although White has been valuable to the Celtics in many ways, his confidence as a scorer has appeared shaken at times since he was acquired from the Spurs in February. But his fourth quarter Friday night was his finest as a Celtic. He scored 11 of his 22 points and led a comeback that eventually fizzled. Momentum has shifted suddenly in these playoffs, both for teams and players, but if White can carry some of those good vibes into Game 7, it could be a difference-maker.
Warriors are not taking another run to NBA Finals for granted — 7:10 p.m.
By Gary Washburn
The Golden State Warriors should be accustomed to reaching the NBA Finals, having beaten the Dallas Mavericks Thursday to advance for the sixth time in the past eight years. But returning to this level is not lost on the Warriors’ veterans, all of whom are in the latter half of their careers.
As brilliant as he is, Stephen Curry is 34 and is finishing his 13th NBA season. Draymond Green is 32 and is completing season No. 10 but he’s been beset by injuries over the past four seasons. Klay Thompson, 32, is returning from two full seasons out with a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles’.
Their return to the Finals was not at all expected. The Phoenix Suns were considered the favorites in the Western Conference, and they cruised to the best record in the NBA, with their eyes on capturing their first title. But the Suns were shockingly knocked off by the Mavericks, and the Warriors overcame the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies and then overwhelmed the Mavericks.
Golden State is back. The dynasty continues and those who have been there for the previous five appearances are appreciative.
The Celtics can’t afford to have Jaylen Brown’s slump carry over — 7:00 p.m.
By Gary Washburn
The Celtics are going to need Jaylen Brown to show up in a big way in Game 7 of this exhausting Eastern Conference finals series with the Heat.
He may well do it — even though they’re still waiting for him to show up for the second half of Game 6.
Brown scored 20 points in the Heat’s relentless 111-103 series-tying victory Friday night at the Garden, but just 2 came in the second half. He did not score a single bucket and attempted just two shots after the break.
His lone pair of second-half points came on free throws with just under eight minutes remaining to cut the Miami lead to 89-87.
It was either team’s game to win at that point. A few minutes later, the Heat seized control and the Celtics faded in part because of a pair of free throws Brown missed.
Tyler Herro will try to play — 6:50 p.m.
Heat guard Tyler Herro, who missed Game 3, 4, and 5, will try to play tonight.
He’s been dealing with a groin injury, but will warm up “with the intent to play.”
Marcus Smart, Robert Williams will play — 6:45 p.m.
Marcus Smart and Robert Williams have both been battling pain throughout this series. But with a trip to the Finals on the line, they’ll both be playing this evening.
Smart is nursing an ankle sprain suffered against the Heat. Williams is just two months out from surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
What to watch: A fast start — 6:30 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
In general, rowdy playoff crowds can provide a boost at the start of a game. But if things go sour, that edge can be negated quite quickly. During this series, home-court advantage has been virtually nonexistent, particularly early in games.
The Celtics have a minus-15.2 first-quarter net rating during their three home games, and a plus-15.5 mark in the three games in Miami. That’s one of the reasons the prospect of playing Game 7 on the road, a historically daunting task, does not seem so crushing.
“We’d like to get off to better starts, put some pressure on the opponent when they’re in that situation, similar to what we did against Milwaukee in Game 7,” Udoka said. “That’s our mind-set coming in. Obviously going into [Miami] we want to start better. We have confidence in going down there winning, too, but we have to get ourselves off to better starts, get ourselves easy baskets and not give them life early in the game.”
Miami had been undefeated at home during these playoffs entering this series, but it is 1-2 against Boston.
What to watch: Freeing up the Js — 6:20 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
Miami’s defense continues to swarm Jayson Tatum and, to a lesser extent, Jaylen Brown. This is nothing new. Ime Udoka has encouraged both players to make the right reads out of double teams early in games so that the secondary options can put pressure on the Heat’s defense and create openings for the two stars later in the game, when they are needed most.
But that approach failed in Game 6, when the rest of the team combined to go 3 for 18 in the first half. That allowed the Heat to feel comfortable smothering Tatum and Brown in the second, and the duo attempted a total of just seven shots after halftime. That just won’t work.
“Miami, that was their job, to try to take it out of their hands,” Udoka said. “Derrick [White] had it going a little bit, but we always want to stay aggressive and make the right play. At the same time, they are our scorers, they’re our leading scorers, and obviously in the fourth quarter, we need them to bring it home. So we’ve got to do a better job finding them, getting them the ball and putting them in spots knowing how the defense is guarding them.”
What to watch: Clutch moments — 6:10 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
When the Celtics have won during these playoffs, they’ve won big. Their last seven wins have come by 8 points or more, including romps by 25 and 20 points in this series against Miami.
But when games actually get close, the results have been less encouraging. Boston has played seven playoff games in which the score was within 5 points in the final three minutes, and it’s been outscored by 29.4 points per 100 possessions in these situations. It has also turned over the ball more than 20 percent of the time during these moments. It’s a small sample size, but the Celtics have to show they’re prepared to thrive in the clutch.
Mike Breen out for tonight — 6:00 p.m.
By Chad Finn
Mike Breen, the lead NBA play-by-play voice for ESPN and ABC, has tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss tonight’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Celtics.
Mark Jones will replace him on the call, alongside the usual analysts, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Jones has been calling this series on ESPN Radio, along with analyst Doris Burke.
Per an ESPN spokesperson, Breen feels fine and expects to call Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which begin Thursday.
Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn. Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang. Katie McInerney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac. Scott Thurston can be reached at email@example.com.