The Boston Celtics are now headed to the NBA Finals for the firt time in over a decade. Boston took out the Miami Heat in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Finals series Sunday evening.
Boston started out strong, putting up a 15-point lead after the first quarter. Despite Miami’s attempt to come back late in the fourth quarter, it was not enough for Jimmy Butler and Co.
The Celtics won by the score of 100-96 in South Beach to punch their ticket to the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Below, we look at the four biggest winners and losers from the Boston Celtics’ four-point victory over the Miami Heat in Game 7.
Winner: Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart with great all-around performance
Marcus Smart has been a catalyst on both ends of the court for the now-Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. That has included Smart playing the role of a distributor on offense despite struggles shooting the ball.
- Marcus Smart stats (2022 NBA Playoffs): 14.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 40% shooting, 33% 3-point
The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year was back up to his old tricks Sunday evening in South Beach. Smart scored 24 points on 8-of-22 shooting while connecting on three from distance.
Smart’s presence is going to be absolutely huge heading into the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. He’ll have to D up if the Celtics are going to pull off the upset against Stephen Curry and Co.
Loser: Miami Heat backcourt was an absolute disaster
It’s surprising that Miami found itself down a mere seven points after three quarters. In the first 36 minutes of Game 7, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined for 52 points. The rest of Miami’s roster had 23 points combined.
Jimmy Buckets and his star running mate just couldn’t do enough to make up for the lack of depth in Miami. The starting backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Max Strus shot a combined 7-of-22 from the field. They also committed four combined turnovers with six assists.
Miami’s bench also struggled big time in this one with guards Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo shooting a combined 5-of-18 from the field.
Winner: Ime Udoka proves Boston Celtics coaching gig isn’t too big for him
Working under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio from 2012-19, most figured that Udoka might have ended up replacing the all-time great head coach. That didn’t happen. After spending the past two seasons in different stops with the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, Udoka earned the Celtics’ head-coaching job.
After initially looking to be in over his head in that role, Udoka has his Celtics head to their first NBA Finals since 2009-10. Boston started the season with a 25-25 record, only to win finish the regular year winning 26 of its final 32.
There was talk of a rift within the locker room. Smart’s decision to call out Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown early in the season. Udoka needed to gain control of the locker room. That’s exactly what he did en route to leading the Boston Celtics through the Eastern Conference Playoffs and with an appearance in the NBA Finals.
Loser: Boston Celtics’ Robert Williams needs to pick his game up
Boston will be going up against a vastly improved big man in that of Kevon Looney in the NBA Finals. It will need Williams to play at a much higher clip if the team is going to pull off the upset.
We didn’t see this Sunday evening in Miami. Williams scored just two points and grabbed three rebounds in 15 minutes of action. Sure we’re talking about one of the best defenders in the game. However, Williams has been dealing with a knee injury all postseason. He’ll need to compete against a player in Looney who averaged 10.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in the Western Conference Finals.