Miami Heat, 2023 NBA Playoffs
The Miami Heat are the Eastern Conference Champions of the 2023 NBA playoffs after staving off the Boston Celtics in Game 7. Bleacher Report/Twitter


  • The Miami Heat soundly routed the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals
  • Only the '99 New York Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals as an eighth-seed
  • Jimmy Butler and the Heat now face a mountain of a task against the Denver Nuggets

The Miami Heat had their backs against the wall after squandering a 3-0 series lead to the Boston Celtics featuring a Derrick White game-winner in Game 6, but a spirited response in Game 7 ensured them the title of Eastern Conference Champions.

With the TD Garden crowd showing up in full support for their hometown Celtics before the tip, the Heat jumped to a 22-15 lead to end the first quarter–a charge that would balloon to 11 points at the end of the first half.

The problem would only further compound for the Celtics in the third quarter as they failed to make any headway into the lead thanks to the Heat breaking down Boston's defense with ease while the Celtic's offense stagnated to a halt.

Settling for threes outside the flow of the offense as the lead continued to build was simply not the answer as the three-point shooting woes of Game 6 bit them in the ankle once again, going 9-of-42 from beyond the arc in the series-closer of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The lead would never escape the Heat's grasp entering the final frame as they would cruise to a 103-84 victory despite the Celtics being heavily favored to advance ahead of Game 7.

It should also be noted that Jayson Tatum rolling his ankle on the very first play of the game certainly played a role in the Celtics struggling to contain the brewing storm on the Miami side of things, only scoring 14 points.

Many had expected Jimmy Butler to explode when it mattered most, and while he did score a game and team-high 28 points, it was Caleb Martin's 26-point outburst that allowed the Heat to advance.

Caleb Martin, Miami Heat
#16 Caleb Martin of the Miami Heat. Bleacher Report/Twitter

Outside of the Heat's unthinkable achievement, the only other No. 8 seed to advance to the NBA Finals is the 1999 New York Knicks bannered by Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston.

That Knicks squad ran into the "Twin Towers" of the San Antonio Spurs in the form of veteran David Robinson and burgeoning star Tim Duncan, falling to them in five games.

For additional context, the only team to ever win the NBA title with a seed lower than No. 4 is the 1995 sixth-seeded Houston Rockets which was led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Vernon Maxwell and current NBA analyst Kenny "The Jet" Smith.

Entering the NBA Finals, the deck is stacked against Miami as the Denver Nuggets presents them with the most significant challenge they are yet to face thanks to Nikola Jokic.

Jokic has been the best overall player in the playoffs thus far, currently averaging a triple-double in points (29.9), rebounds (13.3), and assists (10.3), which will force Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to be creative in his defensive assignments.

Butler and Bam Adebayo can ill-afford to have another bad shooting night like that of Game 6 if they wish to have a shot at upsetting the Nuggets.

Further adding to the Heat's problems is the presence of Jamal Murray, who has elevated his game to another level in the 2023 playoffs.

Additionally, the Nuggets' freakishly strong depth that includes Michael Porter Jr., Christian Braun, Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a problem that has only been solved thrice in the playoffs thus far in the form of two losses to the Phoenix Suns and one to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

One good thing that Heat fans can count on is the seemingly impending return of Tyler Herro, who is expected to be back by Game 3 according to sources.

Miami has already been holding down the fort as best they can in the absence of their hot-shooting guard, but it can be argued that their overall effort on the court has allowed them to surpass the lack of big-name stars on their roster in a league enamored with having high-profile players leading the charge.

The final race to four victories in the NBA Finals tips off on June 1 at 8:30 PM ET on ABC.

Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler
#13 Bam Adebayo and #22 Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat. NBA Memes/Twitter