The Miami Heat poured it on in the fourth quarter to beat the Boston Celtics 125-113 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday and book a trip to the NBA Finals to face the the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat, NBA champions in 2006, 2012 and 2013, reached the championship series for the sixth time in club history. Miami finished off the Celtics, 4-2, in the series.
Bam Adebayo posted a double-double with 32 points and 14 rebounds to go with five assists and a steal for the Heat. Jimmy Butler added 22 points, Tyler Herro had 19 while Andre Iguodala, who is now on his sixth straight NBA Finals after, and Duncan Robinson added 15 points each.
When the finals start on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) they’ll be up against a Lakers team led by LeBron James — who reached the title series four times with Miami and won two titles before departing as a free agent in 2014.
The Heat trailed by six with 9:18 remaining.
Midway through the fourth quarter Adebayo was fouled on a layup and made the free throw put the Heat up 101-100 and they wouldn’t trail again.
It was a vindication for the player who blamed himself for the team’s failure to clinch the series at their first opportunity in Game 5.
“I couldn’t let my teammates down like I did in the game before,” Adebayo said. “I just went out there and tried to execute and make plays and I did that tonight.”
Herro contributed two baskets in a 9-0 scoring run that put the Heat up by 10 with 3:31 to play and Adebayo’s pass set Butler up for a layup that made it 116-102 with 2:40 remaining.
Fittingly, it was Adebayo who capped the scoring when he jammed in a reverse two-hander.
“This group, more than anything, they just love to compete,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said as the Eastern Conference trophy was presented.
The fifth-seeded Heat became the lowest seeded team to reach the championship series since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 26 points, Jayson Tatum had 24 points and 11 assists while Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart finished with 20 points each.
The Heat had emerged from a close first quarter with a 33-27 lead.
Tatum missed his first seven shots but warmed up with 12 points in the second quarter.
His driving layup with 1:56 left in the first half put Boston up 56-55 — their first lead since the first quarter.
Both teams were clicking offensively and they traded baskets and the lead to the break with Miami leading 62-60 at halftime.
Two days after the Celtics seized control of Game 5 with a 41-point third quarter, it stayed close in the third.
The Heat led by as many as eight in a quarter that featured two lead changes.
Brown was fouled on a layup and converted the free throw to pull the Celtics within 86-4-84 with a minute remaining.
Smart powered to the rim for a dunk that tied it at 86-86 but Dragic’s reverse layup put Miami up 88-86 heading into the fourth.
Bam made sure
The Celtics started strong in the final period, despite a scare when Brown landed from a dunk hard on his left leg and came up limping.
He stayed in the game, and it wasn’t long before he stripped Herro of the ball and raced for a layup that put the Celtics up 96-90 — but the Heat wouldn’t go away.
“Bam made sure that we won the game tonight,” Butler said.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the 23-year-old Adebayo’s determination and the Heat’s physicality were simply too much at the end.
“They’re strong, they’re physical, they’re tough and (Adebayo) in particular dominated that fourth quarter,” Stevens said. “Even the plays he didn’t score his presence was so impactful.”
Spoelstra said he hoped his players would take a night to savor their achievement in winning the conference before turning their attention to the challenge of the Lakers.
“I feel like we’ve still yet to play our absolute best basketball,” Butler said. “But we’re on the way. We realize what we have to do going forward. We have to be near-perfect to beat the Lakers. We are capable of it.”