THE Heat defeated the Celtics via a stunning 103-84 rout Tuesday before an unbelieving throng at The Boston Garden in a game bereft of drama and fraught with trauma.
The victory earned for the underrated Miami the National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference crown but, more importantly, the win shoved the Heat to the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets in another best-of-seven series beginning on Friday.
Miami had done it against all odds, finally erasing the stigma of losing a 3-0 lead in an anticlimactic ending, in the process becoming only the second No. 8 after the 1999 New York Knicks to have a shot at the world’s premiere basketball trophy. (The Knicks lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.)
While Miami was a picture of unabashed jubilation after the crown clincher, the game proved to be the most boring Game 7 in recent memory.
The anticipated thriller of a finish after Boston’s cardiac Game 6 104-103 win the day before dissipated right in the opening minute.
Jayson Tatum twisted an ankle during a botched drive, landing on the foot of a fallen Gabe Vincent just 26 seconds from jump ball.
After splitting his free throws for a 1-0 Boston lead, Tatum practically played wounded the rest of the way, at times limping as the swelling in his right ankle hurt him the rest of the way.
Still, he plodded on, feigning pain, grimacing. In 42 minutes, he would only score 14 points. This, from the man who fired 51 points, an all-time high, in another Game 7 just weeks back.
“I was a shell of myself,” said Tatum. “Couldn’t move.”
Jaylen Brown was supposed to supplant Tatum—but it didn’t happen.
What also did not happen was Boston rewriting history as the first to win a playoff series in seven games after being down 3-0.
“I could see it [Tatum’s ankle] swelling,” said Brown, weighed down himself by six turnovers. “I failed.”
With Tatum’s offense in tatters, the Celtics failed themselves in many aspects of the game. They had no defense. No teamwork. No assault of significance.
In contrast, the Heat had their leader, Jimmy Butler, totally in command. Plus, his deputy, Caleb Martin.
Butler had 28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in a calculated game anchored on Erik Spoelstra’s methodology of well-paced coaching.
It was no surprise then that Butler was chosen Finals MVP (Most Valuable Player), even as several quarters had batted for Martin, whose four three-pointers helped fuel Miami’s breakaway.
How will Miami fare against Denver, whose 4-0 sweep of Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals has remained a hot clubhouse topic?
If Miami’s Bam Adebayo could hold his own against Man Mountain Nikola Jokic, the 7-footer from Serbia, we have a game going.
THAT’S IT It’d be a shame, indeed, if Carlos Yulo would miss the Asian Games. That would mean one gold medal less for the country. But Yulo is torn between the World Gymnastics and the Asiad—the event in Belgium serving as a qualifier to the 2024 Paris Olympics. I still wish Yulo’s schedules could be fixed for him not to skip the Asian Games in China…Happy birthday to Coach Dayong J. Mendoza (June 2) of San Miguel Beer, who will celebrate at Dayong Art Gallery Cafe! Cheers!