Celtics’ Ime Udoka Becomes First Nigerian Coach At NBA Finals

By Chidi Nwoke, Abuja.

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Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has become the first Nigerian in history to coach a team to the NBA Finals, leading his side through a 7-game series to beat the Miami Heat 4-3 in the Eastern Conference finals.

Jayson Tatum registered 26 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists to help the Boston Celtics to a 100-96 victory against hosts Miami Heat to win Game 7 of the finals on Sunday night and reach the NBA Finals.

Tatum was named the conference finals’ MVP.

Boston Celtics Power Forward Jayson Tatum wins Eastern Conference MVP award.

Marcus Smart added 24 points and nine rebounds, while Jaylen Brown also scored 24 points as the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Grant Williams added 11 points for Boston.

Jimmy Butler recorded 35 points and nine rebounds to lead the Heat, although he missed a 3-point attempt with 16.6 seconds left that would have given Miami the lead. Bam Adebayo added 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Kyle Lowry had 15 points and seven rebounds.

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

The Heat, who trailed by 17 points early in the second quarter and by 16 late in the second, 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.

Smart’s two free throws elevated the lead to 98-85 with 3:35 remaining. 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 3-pointer to cut it two with 50.7 seconds left.

Miami had a chance to move ahead, but Butler’s ill-fated transition 3-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 Boston Celtics shot 41.2 percent from the field, including 11 of 32 from 3-point range to progress to the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat made 42 percent of their shots and were a shaky 6 of 30 from behind the arc.

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