Celtics hold off Heat, advance to NBA Finals vs. Warriors

On Jan. 7, the Boston Celtics were 18-21 and sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Less than five months later, the team took another huge step in a remarkable in-season turnaround when they held off the host Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night, 100-96.

The Celtics will face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, beginning on Thursday. Jayson Tatum won the inaugural Larry Bird Trophy, which goes to the Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

Thanks to their huge second half of the regular season, Boston entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the East, but had to go through the Kevin Durant- and Kyrie Irving-led Brooklyn Nets, defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks and top-seeded Heat to make this year’s Finals. The Celtics are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most NBA titles with 17, but haven’t been to the championship round since 2010, when they fell to the Lakers in seven games.

Rookie head coach Ime Udoka’s club hasn’t lost consecutive games during the entire postseason and Monday will mark two full months since they last dropped back-to-back contests. Boston and Golden State split their two regular season meetings this campaign, with both teams picking up a road victory.

In the win, Tatum scored a team-high 26 points and added 10 rebounds for a double-double, Jaylen Brown had 24 points, six rebounds and six assists and Marcus Smart had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Al Horford only scored five points, but contributed a game-high 14 rebounds, had one of the game’s best defensive highlights and broke his lengthy drought of never making an NBA Finals.

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