Marietta native, former Hawks star help Celtics clinch NBA Finals berth

Jaylen Brown and Al Horford will play in their first career NBA Finals.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum raises the NBA Eastern Conference MVP trophy after...
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum raises the NBA Eastern Conference MVP trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series, Sunday, May 29, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)(Wilfredo Lee | AP)
Published: May. 30, 2022 at 12:50 AM EDT
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MIAMI (AP/CBS46) — Marietta native Jaylen Brown and former Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford helped the Boston Celtics survive a frantic rally in the final seconds to beat the top-seeded Miami Heat on the road 100-96 to clinch an NBA Finals berth.

Jayson Tatum scored 26 points, Marcus Smart and Brown each added 24 points and Horford provided strong veteran leadership and solid defense in Game 7. The Celtics, who last won the NBA Finals in 2008, will face the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have played in five NBA Finals since 2015, winning three of them against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The emotions were felt throughout the waning seconds of the fourth quarter and throughout the post-game press conference.

“We’re very grateful, we’re very excited. I know everybody is happy. My family is happy and we’re enjoying this one,” said Horford. “It was a lot of hard work. I’ve been around a lot of great teams. There was a lot of great teamwork. I’ve seen Brown come into the league and take steps to grow. I’ve seen JT [Jason Tatum] do the same thing and Marcus Smart as well.”

“We’ve been responding all season to adversity, today was the biggest test. Not just of the year but of our careers. To mentally come into a game 7 after losing on our home court and we got it done,” said Brown at the postgame press conference.

Horford was drafted No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2007 NBA draft where he spent nine seasons of his career. He joined the Celtics in 2016, the year Brown was drafted No. 3 overall after graduating from Wheeler High School. Horford spent one season with the Philadelphia 76ers before joining the Celtics in the 2021 off-season. The 35-year-old is looking for his first NBA title.

“This is a great opportunity. This is what you put all that work in your whole life for to get to play in the NBA Finals,” Brown added. “To represent not just this organization, but your family and your community and extended community. It doesn’t get too much better than that. We’ve got to embrace it and embrace the challenge.”

The Celtics have been battle-tested throughout the playoffs. The C’s previously swept the Brooklyn Nets, beat the defending NBA Finals champion Milwaukee Bucks and beat the Heat, who previously had the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference NBA playoffs.