Magical Miami Heat Reach NBA Finals as Underdog
Posted on: May 30, 2023, 10:07h.
Last updated on: May 30, 2023, 10:45h.
The Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday to secure a spot in the 2023 NBA Finals. The Heat are installed as an underdog at +310 odds against the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets, who are the betting favorite to win the NBA championship at -400.
The Heat jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the conference finals, but the Celtics won three-straight elimination games to force a seventh and final game. The Celtics were unable to punch their ticket to a second-straight NBA Finals when they were blown out, 103-84.
The Heat avenged a heartbreaking loss against the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference finals last postseason.
The NBA introduced the Play-In Tournament in 2020, and the Heat became the first play-in team to reach the NBA Finals.
The Heat became only the second #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals. The New York Knicks secured a spot in the 1999 NBA Finals as the #8 seed, but that was during a shortened, 50-game season because of a lockout.
The Heat clinched their second Eastern Conference championship since 2020. They also reached the NBA Finals for the second time in the last four seasons. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals inside the pandemic-induced NBA Bubble in Orlando.
Celtics Fall Short on Historic Comeback
The Boston Celtics failed in their attempt to become the first team in NBA history to recover from an 0-3 deficit and win a seven-game series. They lost Game 7, and teams are now 0-151 in a playoff series after falling behind 0-3.
The Celtics were riding a three-game winning streak entering Game 7 at home at TD Garden. They were a -7.5 betting favorite, yet lost to the Heat by 19 points.
All-star forward Jayson Tatum sustained an ankle injury in the first offensive possession of the game, which slowed him down the rest of the game.
“It was just frustrating that I was a shell of myself,” Tatum said after the loss. “It was tough to move. Just frustrating.”
Tatum played through the pain and logged 42 minutes of court time. He tallied 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. He shot 5-for-13 from the field, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range.
Backup combo guard Malcolm Brogdon struggled with a forearm injury. Brogdon won the 2023 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, but only played seven minutes and didn’t score a point in Game 7.
We got punked,” said backup forward Grant Williams. “We didn’t play our game from start to finish. Defensively, we just lost it all, and then offensively we were scrambled and just didn’t go our way.”
The Celtics live and die from 3-point range, and they went cold in Game 7. They missed 33 trey attempts and shot just 21.4% overall. Overall, Boston’s starters shot a combined 7-for-33 from 3-point land for a 21% success rate. The bench provided zero help with 16 total points on 2-for-9 from downtown (22.2%).
Jimmy Butler Wins MVP, Caleb Martin Shines
The Celtics played poor perimeter defense in Game 7 and the Heat’s long-range bombers connected on 50% of their 3-pointers on a 14-for-28 clip.
Forward Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 28 points in Game 7. Butler helped the Heat end a three-game losing streak to clinch the conference championship after the Heat blew a 3-0 series lead.
Butler claimed conference finals MVP honors by averaging 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.6 steals per game against the Celtics.
We stayed together as a group. As a team, we talked about going and getting a tough one on the road. We did just that,” said Butler. “But we’re not satisfied. We’re excited, we’re happy. But got one more to get.”
Undersized Heat forward Caleb Martin made a name for himself this postseason. During the regular season, Martin averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Against the Celtics in the playoffs, Martin averaged 19.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 60.2% from the floor and 48.9% from 3-point range.
Martin, a 6-foot-5 small forward, outplayed a bigger and stronger Al Horford in Game 7. The younger and more agile Martin set a career playoff high with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Heat Seeking Fourth Title
The Heat have won the NBA championship three times. Head coach Pat Riley led them to their first championship in the 2005-06 season. Erik Spoelstra won consecutive titles as the Heat’s head coach in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
The #8 Heat were underdogs in every round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They upset the #1 Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round. In the second round, the Heat defeated the #5 New York Knicks in six games. In the conference finals, the Heat were underdogs and still picked off the #2 Boston Celtics in a seven-game series.
Sometimes you have to suffer for the things that you really want,” said Spoelstra. “This group has shown fortitude, when there are inevitable letdowns and failures, to have that perseverance to pick yourself up, to have that collective spirit to keep on forging ahead until you get to accomplish what you want to.”
The well-rested Denver Nuggets await the Heat in the 2023 NBA Finals. As the #1 seed, the Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers to win the Western Conference championship.
The Nuggets are -400 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to DraftKings. The Nuggets have never won an NBA title and will make their first appearance in the NBA Finals. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Nuggets were only +1100 odds to win the championship. They were the seventh-highest team on the futures board to start the postseason.
The Heat are +310 odds to win the 2023 NBA Finals, and oddsmakers installed them as an underdog for a fourth-straight playoff series. At the end of the regular season, the Heat were bound for the play-in tournament and +25000 odds to win the championship.
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