It was just over a month ago that the Miami Heat’s season was on the brink. Jimmy Butler and Co. had just fallen to the Atlanta Hawks in the first NBA Play-In Tournament. They needed a win over the Chicago Bulls a couple days later to earn a spot in the NBA Playoffs as the eighth seed.
Even after Erik Spoelstra’s squad defeated Chicago, no one really gave this team much chance against an NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
After pulling off a shocking upset over Milwaukee in the first round to become the first Play-In team to earn a spot in the conference semifinals, Miami is advancing to the NBA’s version of the Final 4.
Taking on the New York Knicks in Game 6 at home Friday night, Miami needed one more win to punch its ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals against either the Philadelphia 76ers or Boston Celtics.
After falling down 31-17 in the first quarter, the Heat maintained their composure and were able to take a one-point lead into halftime. In what ended up being a low-scoring affair between the two long-time rivals, Miami came out on top by the score of 96-92.
Things did get tricky late in the game when Heat guard Gabe Vincent committed a flagrant 1 foul. This gave New York two free throws and possession of the ball. Knicks star Jalen Brunson nailed both from the charity stripe before finding Josh Hart for a layup to pull this one to within 92-90 with 54.1 seconds remaining.
New York would then stop Miami, setting the stage for a potential game-tying or winning shot. Unfortunately for the Knicks, Jalen Brunson committed an uncharacteristic turnover to pretty much put this one away.
Despite Brunson’s excellence (41 points on 14-of-22 shooting), a more balanced effort did the trick for the Miami Heat. Bam Adebayo came through big time with 23 points and nine rebounds. Jimmy Butler continued his stellar postseason play with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists despite shooting an inefficient 7-of-22 from the field.
The end result was Miami making history in a big way as it advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
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Obviously, Miami becomes the first team to make it out of the NBA Play-In Tournament to the conference finals since the play-in started in the Orlando Bubble to conclude the 2019-20 season.
In what has to be considered a bit of coincidence, Miami is also just the second No. 8 seed to advance to the Conference Finals. It joins the 1999 New York Knicks, who defeated the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Finals before losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the championship round. New York’s first-round win that year came against none other than the Miami Heat.
This accomplishment is even more eye-opening given the fact that New York’s win over the top-seed Miami Heat came in a five-game series back in 1999.
As for what to expect from Jimmy Butler and Co. heading into the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s all about the matchup. Game 7 between Boston and Philadelphia is Sunday. Whoever comes out on top will host the Heat in the next round.
Miami boasted a 2-2 record against Boston during the regular season. It was 2-1 against the Sixers.
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