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Celtics beat Heat, book NBA finals berth

Jayson Tatum has registered 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to help the Boston Celtics notch a 100-96 victory over the Miami Heat to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and reach the NBA Finals.

Marcus Smart added 24 points and nine rebounds and Jaylen Brown also scored 24 points as the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals on Sunday night for the first time since 2010.

Tatum was named the conference finals’ MVP.

Jimmy Butler recorded 35 points and nine rebounds to lead the Heat at home, but missed a three-point attempt with 16.6 seconds left that would have given Miami the lead. Bam Adebayo added 25 points and 11 rebounds and Kyle Lowry had 15 points and seven rebounds.

The Celtics will face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals with Game 1 on Thursday night in San Francisco.

Boston led wire-to-wire in ending a streak of five straight losses in opportunities to clinch an NBA Finals berth.

The Heat, who trailed by 17 early in the second quarter, pulled within 82-79 after Adebayo and Butler opened the fourth quarter with baskets.

But Boston countered with eight straight points, with Smart’s floater making it an 11-point cushion with 6:36 left.

Miami suddenly came alive as Lowry, Max Strus and Victor Oladipo scored baskets to cut the deficit to seven.

Lowry’s layup with one minute left pulled the Heat within 98-93, and Strus followed with a triple to cut it two with 50.7 seconds left.

Miami had a chance to move ahead, but Butler’s ill-fated transition three-pointer bounced off the rim, and Smart made two free throws with 11.4 seconds left to give Boston the game-ending four-point lead.

The visitors sprinted out of the gates with leads of 12-3 and 24-9. After the Heat awoke with eight straight points, the Celtics finished the quarter with eight of their own to take a 32-17 lead into the second period.

But Miami finished strong with an 11-2 burst to trail by six at the break.

The Celtics pushed the lead to 72-58 with 6:46 left in the third before Miami cut down the deficit and trailed 82-75 entering the final stanza.

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