BOSTON — Jimmy Butler called his shot.
A year to the day after Butler vowed to get the Miami Heat over the hump following a hard-fought Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2022 Eastern Conference finals, he made good on his promise.
Miami joined the 1999 New York Knicks as the second No. 8 seed to make the NBA Finals after a dominant 103-84 victory over Boston in Game 7 of the conference finals on Monday night.
“Figure out a way to be consistent,” Butler had said after that Game 7 defeat in 2022 — one that ended with him missing a 3-pointer that would have potentially won Miami the game. “I think we had enough, I think we do have enough … next year, we will have enough and we’re going to be right back in this same situation and we’re going to get it done.”
He was right.
Butler’s words have proved prophetic throughout the Heat’s magical run this postseason. He scored 28 points, grabbed seven rebounds and made six assists in 43 minutes in Monday’s Game 7, earning the Larry Bird Trophy as the Eastern Conference finals MVP.
“I just know why Coach Pat [Riley] and Coach [Erik Spoelstra] wanted me to be here,” Butler said after Monday’s win, when asked about his comments from a year ago. “And that’s to compete at a high level and to win championships.
“I know that the group that they put around me at all times is going to give me an opportunity to do so. … I know the work that we all put into it, so I know what we’re capable of. Nobody is satisfied. We haven’t done anything. We don’t play just to win the Eastern Conference; we play to win the whole thing.”
While Butler paced the group Monday night, Caleb Martin — who didn’t play in last year’s Game 7 — stole the show with another huge outing for the Heat, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 45 minutes. Martin had clutch performances throughout this series and went 11-for-16 from the field in Game 7.
The rest of the Celtics labored to score, as well, as the team finished 9-for-42 on 3-pointers.
The Heat, meanwhile, made 50% of their 3-pointers in Game 7 — and they are now set to face their biggest test in Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets starting on Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.