100-96. Boston Celtics take the win over the Miami Heat. Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals was decided by just four points.

A measly, four-point difference ended a Miami Heat playoff run that almost got the South Beach franchise back to an unlikely second NBA Finals appearance in three years.

Sorry Heat fans, this one’s gonna hurt. But had two plays gone differently, the Heat would’ve had a chance at their fourth championship in franchise history.

Shot #1

Classic Scott Foster move.

Even Celtics fans can admit that a no-call should not be reviewed under any circumstances, but taking points off the board after the fact? What on earth?

Max Strus ended up scoring eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he deserved at least three more. Had the basket counted, it would’ve changed the entire game.

Still, it would’ve only made the final score 100-99, with Boston still getting the win.

Shot #2

Jimmy Butler is a career 32.1 percent shooter from three-point range. In the 2021-22 season, his percentage from behind the arc was just 23.3 percent.

But here’s the thing – no one watching this game thought Jimmy Butler was going to miss this shot.

Butler plays like a different person in the playoffs. His shooting percentages go up, his PER rises, and most importantly, he plays like the superstar the Miami Heat need him to be in order to go far in the NBA Playoffs.

He was shooting 33.8 percent in the 2022 playoffs, giving him no reason not to think that he could convert. Make it and he’s the hero in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miss, and it’s all over.

Not saying that this basket should have gone in, but if everyone believed it was going in, it should at least count as a good shot, right?

Could the Miami Heat Have Fared Differently in the NBA Finals?

Golden State ended up taking advantage of the Celtics’ lackluster offense and turnover-prone issues. Boston’s overall youth was also an issue, with their 24-year-old superstar Jayson Tatum wilting under the intense pressure of the NBA Finals.

The Heat might have their own problems with half-court offense, but they certainly do not lack experience. Eight different Miami Heat players have been to the Finals before this season.

Five of those were from their 2020 Finals campaign, but additions like Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker, and Markieff Morris all brought more experience and leadership to this roster.

Eight players with that kind of experience are actually more than Golden State had on its roster going into the 2022 NBA Finals. Aside from the Warriors’ big three, only Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney had previous championship experience.

“Playoff Jimmy” is a very real thing, and the Miami Heat’s best asset in the NBA Playoffs

In the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Jimmy Butler was averaging 27.4 points on 50.6 percent from the field, along with 2.1 steals per game. He had already put up four 40-point games in the playoffs, two of which came against the Celtics.

Put that version of Jimmy Butler in the NBA Finals, and anything could happen.

Miami Heat’s Next Steps This NBA Offseason

As long as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo remain on the roster, Miami’s front office has shown it will find a way to surround the two with enough talent to compete for a championship.

NBA offseason rumors are in full swing, and any “trade list” that a star would come out with is going to name the Miami Heat. The Heat’s locational advantage has helped them sign plenty of veterans looking to bring a championship to South Beach.

The Heat also have enough tradeable salary to be able to grab a pretty decent-sized contract. Aside from Adebayo and Butler here are the players that Miami currently has under contract:

  • Kyle Lowry (two years left on deal, about $29 million per year)
  • Duncan Robinson (four years left, roughly $17 million per year)
  • PJ Tucker (one year left, $7.3 million in last year)
  • Tyler Herro (one year left on rookie deal at $5 million per year, the Heat could sign him to an extension and then trade his contract so the numbers here are flexible)

Any of these players is a valuable enough asset to tempt front offices around the league. And by combining two or three of their contracts, the Heat can match salaries with just about anyone in the NBA.

The Heat’s biggest advantage this offseason is that they don’t need to do anything. Re-sign a few role players, and keep building out the roster, but the core of a team that got Miami to the Eastern Conference Finals will be returning next season.

The Heat Are on the Brink

“Two-way players win championships.” -Pat Riley, team president of the Miami Heat

Any discussion of title-contending teams needs to remember the Miami Heat. Grabbing the top seed in a loaded Eastern Conference and getting within two shots of a second trip to the NBA Finals in three years, Miami does not get the credit or national media coverage it deserves.

However the roster looks at the start of next season, know the Pat Riley and the Miami front office believe that they can make a run. And they might know a thing or two about winning.

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About Author

Thomas Christian

Hailing from San Francisco, CA, I had the privilege to bear witness to two 49er SuperBowl appearances, 3 Giants World Series wins, and the greatest basketball dynasty of the 2010s in the Golden State Warriors. Check out my articles writing the Warriors beat or the NBA as a whole for BellyUp Sports, or tune in to my podcast LIVE at 3:05 Pacific every Friday, The GOATED Podcast (also on Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you stream podcasts).

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