MIAMI (AFP) — The Miami Heat poured it on in the fourth quarter to beat the Boston Celtics, 125-113, on Sunday and book a NBA Finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat, NBA champions in 2006, 2012 and 2013, reached the championship series for the sixth time in club history with a four games to two victory over the Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
When the Finals start on Wednesday they will 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.
Bam Adebayo scored 32 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for the Heat, who 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.”
Jimmy Butler added 22 points and eight assists and rookie Tyler Herro scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat.
Duncan Robinson and Andre Iguodala scored 15 points apiece and Goran Dragic added 13 for Miami.
“This group, more than anything, they just love to compete,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said as the Eastern Conference trophy was presented.
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.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 26 points, Jayson Tatum had 24 along with career-high 11 assists and Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker both scored 20 points for Boston.
But it’s the fifth-seeded Heat headed to the finals, the lowest seeded team to reach the championship series since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.
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 five 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 left.