NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Boston Celtics

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Good morning to everyone but especially to...


Maybe it's because they've been doubted. Maybe it's because they've embraced being doubted; they thrive on it. Maybe it's because whatever "it" is, the Heat have it and then some.

Miami went into Boston and walloped the Celtics, 103-84, to win Game 7, avoid a historic collapse and advance to the NBA FinalsJimmy Butler had a team-high 28 points. Caleb Martin was magnificent with 26 points and 10 rebounds. But the individual stats only tell so much of the story.

Whenever the Heat offense struggled, as it so often does, or whenever the Celtics made a run and the crowd tried to get them over the hump, the Heat -- the team, the organization, the culture -- dug deep. It's past time to get to know this wonderful bunch no one (except themselves) expected to be here:

  • Butler, the series MVP, was kicked out of his house as a teenager and began his college career at a junior college. Despite blossoming into an NBA star, he's bounced around. When he joined Miami in 2019, it was his fourth team in a four-season span. It's been a perfect match.
  • Martin went undrafted in 2019 and was waived by the Hornets in 2021. He went from waived by one of the league's worst teams to arguably a top player on a team headed to the Finals. He should have been series, writes our Jack Maloney.
  • Martin, of course, is one of five undrafted players in Miami's rotation. Duncan Robinson went from Division III to Michigan to undrafted to well-paid 3-point sharpshooter to out of the team's plans completely to key cog off the bench. Gabe Vincent (UC Santa Barbara and later the G League) and Max Strus (Division II to DePaul) have been big contributors throughout. Even Haywood Highsmith (Division II Wheeling) provided quality minutes.
  • Kyle Lowry was too old. That's what we heard, and it seemed like the truth season. He was a team-best plus-26 in Game 7.
  • Bam Adebayo's shooting struggles may have spelled doom for other players. Instead, he remained the anchor for an outstanding defense and finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

The Heat are so tough, so resolute, so... Heat, opines our Bill Reiter.

That's why Butler and coach Erik Spoelstra all but guaranteed they'd win Game 7. This group loves to be doubted. More importantly, they love the opportunity, and the Heat have given them that opportunity.  A rough regular season that gave them the 8 seed? No big deal -- the playoffs are a whole new ballgame. A win-or-go-home Game 7 on the road with a trip to the Finals on the line while hoping to avoid becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 series lead? Nothing compared to what they've already overcome.

We should have known the Heat would relish this. Now, they'll face the Nuggets for the NBA title, and a key piece will return as well. Our Colin Ward-Henninger has the early preview on Denver's unstoppable force (offense) against Miami's unmovable object (defense).

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...


There are a lot of words that we could use to describe the Celtics' Game 7. I'll go with "disappointing."

  • Disappointing that... on the very first possession of the game, Jayson Tatum, who had 51 points in his last Game 7, turned his ankle and was far from 100% thereafter.
  • Disappointing that... Tatum's co-star, Jaylen Brown, was nowhere to be found, with as many turnovers (eight) as made shots
  • Disappointing that... Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon returned after missing Game 6 (elbow) but was completely out of sync and played just seven minutes
  • Disappointing that, even given all of that... this game was there for the taking, but the Celtics' atrocious offense (39% shooting, 21.4% from 3, 15 turnovers) couldn't take it

Perhaps most disappointing was that the incredible spirit the Celtics showed battling back from a 3-0 deficit was nowhere to be found. The careless turnovers. The missed defensive assignments. The fact that the players rarely seemed to match the crowd's fervor. It's all just... disappointing.

This is a team that seemed to have it all. Stars. Depth. The second-best regular-season offense and defense. But Tatum and Brown have now had three head coaches and many strong supporting pieces and remain ringless. Our Sam Quinn says it's time for a major shakeup in Boston.

Not so honorable mentions

Golden Knights crush Stars, set for Stanley Cup Final vs. Panthers 🏒

Vegas Golden Knights v Dallas Stars - Game Six
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The Stars came out to deafening cheers. Just 20 minutes later, they left the ice to a chorus of boos. The Golden Knights used a three-goal first period to propel them to a 6-0, Game 6 win in Dallas and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

  • William Carrier opened the scoring, and William Karlsson doubled the lead before Keegan Kolesar made it 3-0 exactly 14 minutes in.
  • Jonathan Marchessault made it 4-0 in the second period, and Karlsson and Michael Amadio both tallied in the third.
  • It's the second-largest postseason win in Golden Knights history, and now Vegas is heading to its second Final in six years of existence.

The Golden Knights will meet the Panthers in the Final, guaranteeing a first-time Cup champion.

76ers hire Nick Nurse as new head coach 🏀

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It took the 76ers less than two weeks to find their new coach, but they've known him -- and his postseason success -- for years. Longtime Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is staying in the division after agreeing to become Philadelphia's coach Monday.

  • Nurse, 55, joined the Raptors as an assistant in 2013 and took over as head coach in 2018. In his first year in charge, Nurse led the Raptors to their only title, a run that included Kawhi Leonard's iconic Game 7 buzzer-beater against the 76ers in the second round.
  • Toronto went 227-163 in five years under Nurse, good for the seventh-best in the NBA over that span. However, the Raptors fired Nurse after they failed to make the playoffs this season.
  • The 76ers fired Doc Rivers after blowing a 3-2 series lead to the Celtics, their third consecutive second-round exit. The 76ers haven't made it past the second round since 2001 and haven't won a title since 1983.

Notably, Nurse got the best out of his oft-injured superstar in the postseason in Toronto. In 2019, Leonard was healthy and sensational, two words we haven't used much to describe reigning MVP Joel Embiid in the playoffs.

Then there's the James Harden issue. Another player who hasn't always been in peak condition, Harden opted out of his contract and is reportedly seeking a long-term deal. Harden was brilliant for two games, solid for one and awful for four -- all four losses -- against the Celtics, the latest addition to a suspect-at-best postseason ledger. Still, Nurse is a great hire, Sam writes.

  • Quinn: "Nurse is among the best coaches in the NBA, and is widely regarded as a defensive genius that makes frequent, aggressive in-game adjustments. The 76ers may lose talent this offseason, but Nurse will help make the most of whoever they still have next season."

There are now three head-coach openings.

Handing out MLB Memorial Day awards ⚾

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It's no longer the early part of the baseball season. That's because Memorial Day traditionally marks the point in MLB's schedule where it's OK to obsess over the standings. So with Memorial Day having come and gone, our Mike Axisa provided a check-in on where everything stands and handed out some awards.

Even with the Braves out of Matt's top five -- they fell from second to sixth -- they should be feeling pretty good, Mike writes. He also believes that Ronald Acuña Jr. is putting together and MVP season:

  • Axisa: "He has been arguably the best all-around player in the game and he has a real chance at a 40/40 season. The best player on the league's best team always gets a ton of MVP support. Acuña's teammate, Sean Murphy, deserves love here as well"

What we're watching Tuesday 📺

Phillies at Mets, 7:10 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Liberty at Storm, 9 p.m. on ESPN2