Jaylen Brown and Al Horford felt exactly like all the Boston Celtics fans watching as Miami Heat guard Jimmy Butler pulled up for a transition 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Butler’s shot came after Marcus Smart missed at the rim, allowing Miami to get out on the break while trailing, 98-96. It undoubtedly caused the hearts of Green Teamers to skip a beat as the Celtics had an 11-point lead just three minutes prior.
That was the same for those on the court, too.
“I was hoping to God, my mind was to rebound because I was in the game so I didn’t give up an offensive rebound. But when he shot that, I was like, ‘Man, what the hell?,'” Brown said after Boston’s 100-96 victory, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “But he missed, we get the rebound and move on.”
Brown did secure the rebound with 12.9 seconds left before Miami used a foul to stop the clock with 11.4 remaining.
Celtics veteran big man Al Horford was the closest defender on Butler, who could have attacked the rim given that Miami was trailing by just two points.
“Yeah, I mean I was loaded (defensively). I didn’t know what he was going to do. It seemed like he was going to go for the shot, but I just to make sure that I stayed solid,” Horford said after the game. “And when he pulled up for the three I was like, let me just contest the best way that I can. He got a good look at it.
“It was nerve-wrecking,” Horford continued. “He pulled up and anything could have happened there. He could have made the shot. Fortunately, I contested it enough and he missed it and we were able to get control of the ball.”
Smart then hit a pair of free throws to push Boston’s lead to two possessions and the Celtics pulled it out. It helped the Green claim the victory in the winner-take-all Game 7 and ultimately emerge with the Eastern Conference title.
The Celtics now advance to face the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Thursday with tipoff set for 9 p.m. ET.