The Miami Heat keep their Cinderella playoff run to the NBA Finals Monday night after they defeated the Boston Celtics 103-84.
However, it was not easy.
The Heat found themselves on the brink of elimination after squandering a 3-0 series lead to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The resilient Celtics fought and clawed their way back to even the series after a miraculous tip-in from Derrick White with 0.2 seconds remaining in Game 6.
Going home to Boston for Game 7, many thought, including myself, that Boston had all the momentum and they would beat the Heat and become the first team in NBA history to come back from an 0-3 deficit.
The head coach of the Miami Heat, Eric Spoelstra thought otherwise.
After the Game 6 heartbreaker in Miami, Spoelstra makes a guarantee in a postgame interview. "I don't know how we're gonna get this done, but we're gonna go up there and get it done."
And that's what the Heat did!
They controlled the entire game, outscoring the Celtics in 3 out of 4 quarters. The eight-seeded Heat is the 2nd eight-seed in history to make it to the NBA Finals. The New York Knicks, in 1999, became the first eight-seed to make it to the NBA Finals. They would lose to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1.
The Heat have an opportunity to accomplish what no other team in the history of the NBA has done, and that's winning an NBA Championship as an eight-seed.
The Heat Journey
It's been quite some journey for the Miami Heat. By the skin of their teeth, they made the 2023 NBA playoffs after advancing in the play-in tournament. Since then, the Heat haven't looked back, and they have been red-hot throughout the playoffs.
They knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, which sent shockwaves through the NBA world. What made the win more impressive is Victor Oladipo, and Tyler Herro, two of the Heat's main players went down with injuries in the first-round matchup.
The Heat's journey continues as they have defied the odds this 2023 playoff run by making it to the NBA Finals. Some may say it's luck, but if you know anything about the Heat players, they don't back down from anyone.
One of the main reasons the Miami Heat are in a good position is because of Jimmy Butler. Playoff Jimmy, in the regular season, averaged 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.8 steals. During the playoffs, he is averaging 28.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. Butler's will to win and leadership is the biggest reason for the Heat's success.
A prime example is Butler, and the Miami Heat saw themselves in a similar situation last season against the Boston Celtics in the ECF. Butler missed a potential game-winning shot in Game 7, which sent the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals.
Butler stated after the loss, "Next year, we will have enough and we're gonna be right back in this same situation, and we're gonna get it done." Fast forward to now, the Heat defeated the Celtics in Game 7 and advanced to the 2023 NBA Finals.
Teammates Not Role Players
It would be misleading if I did not mention the Miami Heat core group in their Cinderella playoff run. They have ultimately been a factor in the teams' success. Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Caleb Martin are all undrafted players, but you couldn't tell because they have been playing exceptionally well. The Heat have nine undrafted players on their roster with seven players in their rotation.
Jimmy Butler acknowledges them and the value they bring to the Miami Heat. "I don't call them role players, I call them teammates. We got some hoopers. We have some real-deal basketball players that can score, defend, pass, and win games for us."
I'll say this If the Heat wins the 2023 NBA Championship with the roster they have. They could arguably be the most unsung champion in NBA history.