Exactly one year later in another Game 7 between those teams with an NBA Final berth on the line, Martin not only played. He was the best player on the court.
The Nevada Wolf Pack alum tallied a career-playoff-high 26 points with 10 rebounds, three assists and a steal in Miami’s 103-84 rout at Boston. He played 45 of 48 minutes and made 11-of-16 shots, including 4-of-6 from three. It marked his second straight double-double and the third career playoff double-double.
With Boston making a surge late in the third quarter to cut Miami’s lead to 71-64, Martin hit a 26-foot step-back 3-pointer before sinking a 12-foot shot on the Heat’s next possession to give Miami a 10-point lead entering the fourth. Martin then hit a 3-pointer for the first basket of the fourth quarter to score eight straight points for Miami, which opened the fourth on a 7-0 run to all but ice the game.
In his second appearance in the postseason, Martin scored at least 14 points in all seven games of the series, setting career postseason highs of 25 points (in Game 2) and 26 points (in Game 3). He also was superb in a Game 6 loss, tallying 21 points and 15 rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-8 from three. Martin moved into the starting lineup in advance of Game 6 and will likely stay there as the Heat advance to play the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.
Martin’s berth in the NBA Finals will make him the second Wolf Pack alum to reach that stage, joining JaVale McGee, a three-time NBA champion. Martin’s playing time has increased with each playoff series this season as he averaged 26.6 minutes per game in the first round against Milwaukee (a 4-1 series win), 28.3 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks (a 4-2 series win) and 35.6 minutes per game in Eastern Conference Finals against Boston (a 4-3 series win).
Martin’s playing time is partially a result of injuries to Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, who have missed almost all of the playoffs. Herro, who broke his hand in the first game of the playoffs, could return for the NBA Finals, but Martin has clearly earned his extended minutes.
“It’s been amazing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Martin’s contributions. “If you’re a real competitor and it’s in your soul, that’s what Caleb is. He’s a competitor. Every bit a competitor of Jimmy or Bam (Adebayo). Caleb is a competitor. You get to the higher stakes the further you get along, the more the competitors are going to reveal themselves. Games 7s of the Eastern Conference Finals, that’s not for everybody in the association. Otherwise, more players, more teams would do it. You have to be wired a little bit differently, and Caleb is. He competes at both ends and lays it out there for everybody to see. He’s accepted different roles. We needed him to be more of a player with Tyler and Vic out. We’ve needed more offense.”
Martin, who was cut by the Charlotte Hornets prior to last season before rejuvenating his career in Miami, said he’s thrilled he has been able to contribute to the Heat’s playoff run this season.
The NBA playoffs always have unlikely heroes, but even by those standards, the story of the Miami Heat’s Caleb Martin is particularly Rudy-esque. As broadcasters love to mention, he’s one of nine undrafted players on the Heat roster, and the one who has aided them most during the postseason, becoming a crucial factor in the team’s surge through the Eastern Conference. Over the course of 18 games, Martin has helped a Heat team that barely squeaked into the postseason make its way to the finals, averaging career highs across the board and shooting the ball with mechanical precision. And it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that he might not be in this position at all if not for his unlikely connection to a superstar rapper.
When did Caleb Martin get drafted?
Martin actually went undrafted in 2019, although his twin brother Cody, with whom he played alongside in college, ended up being selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the second round. Caleb Martin then signed a contract with the Hornets as an undrafted free agent, but he was released before the 2021 season.
J.Cole reached out to former NBA player and Heat assistant coach Caron Butler. Butler told The Charlotte Observer that the Heat were always looking to upgrade talent on the roster.
“He had reached out to me and told me he had a very, very talented guy that was just wrecking shop up here in North Carolina,” Butler said to The Charlotte Observer.
“(J. Cole) reached out to me and I just invited (Martin) to an open scrimmage in the summer, and from that point on he really earned his way on. But J. Cole having the foresight in knowing Caleb can come and help a contending team was just amazing.”
Caleb and Cody Martin’s basketball careers have to be discussed together, because the twins did everything together when it came to their ascent. North Carolina natives, the Martin brothers showed tremendous promise and relocated in high school to the legendary Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, a prep school incubator for college and NBA superstars. Caleb and Cody were recruited by Mark Gottfried at NC State, and both elected to attend university at home. It was poised to be a dream come true, but quickly ended when Gottfried was fired in 2017.
Deciding it wasn’t worth trying to make an impact on a new incoming head coach, the Martins transferred to Nevada to play for Eric Musselman, who heavily recruited the duo two years earlier. It was here they found success, getting more minutes and opportunities — showing the basketball world they could be effective.
The twins had fairly different games. Caleb was more of a volume shooter, and the more gifted scorer of the two — while Cody was better defensively and had a more complete all-around game, but without the flashes of scoring brilliance Caleb had.
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