Celtics vs Heat score, takeaway: Jimmy Butler shines as Miami forces Game 7 with decisive win over Boston

Celtics vs Heat score, takeaway: Jimmy Butler shines as Miami forces Game 7 with decisive win over Boston

The Miami Heat aren’t dead yet. We’ll have a do-or-die Game 7 on Sunday night in South Beach after Jimmy Butler led the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference to a crucial 111-103 win in Game 6 at TD Garden to extend this streak. and keep their title hopes alive.

Butler was fantastic for Miami when they needed him the most as he finished the win with a game-high 47 points to go with nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Butler also had plenty of help as Kyle Lowry had one of his best playoff games finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and four boards before finally committing a foul.

For Boston, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did everything they could to lead the Celtics to their first Finals berth since 2010 but, in the end, it wasn’t enough for the two to combine for 50 points, 15 rebounds and nine passes while shooting a combined 15/25 from the field.

Now let’s enjoy the best sport has to offer on Sunday night. A game 7.

Here are four key points of the game:

1. Butler has his own “LeBron Game 6” moment

Ten years ago, the Celtics won Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami to take a 3-2 lead over the Heat and returned home with a chance to close things out. LeBron James didn’t let that happen, as he turned in his famous “Game 6” performance, finishing with 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists to crush the dreams of the Celtics.

On Friday night, Butler took over the role.

After being absent in the last few games, he was great in this one. Driving to the lane for power finishes and free throws, tough jumpers to beat the shot clock, jumping into the passing lanes for steals — he did a bit of everything to keep the Heat’s season alive.

In the end, he finished with 47 points, which was a playoff career high and the second-most in a playoff game in Heat franchise history, and added nine rebounds, eight assists and four interceptions. Butler has had huge nights throughout his career, including in the Finals, so this might not be his best performance, but it’s right up there.

2. Miami finally got some shots

In Games 4 and 5, the Heat shot a combined 60 of 184 (32.6%) from the field and 21 of 81 (25.9%) from 3-point range. They looked like they were running out of gas and answers against an elite Celtics defense, and there was no reason to expect things to change in Game 6.

But, of course, as the old saying goes: that’s why we play games. While Butler led the way, another key factor in the Heat’s victory was that they finally got some shots. They knocked down 15 3-pointers, which was their most in a game this series and second in all of the playoffs, and shot 46.2 percent from the field.

More importantly, they found every clutch shot they needed. Apart from too many fouls, the Celtics defense was again largely impressive. The Heat’s shot was just better. Time and time again, they hit deep 3s and beat jumpers with a hand to the face.

This one, by Max Strus, was the best of the bunch.

3. The Celtics can’t quite shut it down

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka summed it up nicely in his post-game press conference: “We won there, but we’re making it harder for ourselves than necessary.”

The Celtics entered Game 6 on Friday night with a chance to close the series and advance to the Finals for the first time since 2010. Instead, they will have to make another trip to Miami for Game 7, where they will have to win for the third time in the series in order to keep their season alive.

And while Jimmy Butler’s efforts and the Heat’s shots shouldn’t be ignored, it once again feels like the Celtics have let a win slip through their fingers.

First and foremost, they were turning the ball over far too often. The very first play of the game was a bad pass from Jayson Tatum, and they finished with 17 turnovers that led to 23 points for the Heat. Again, the formula is pretty simple: if the Celtics have the ball, they win. Going into the playoffs, they’re now 1-4 with 15+ turnovers and 10-12 when they stay at or below that number.

Another classic Celtics problem that showed up in Game 6 was a poor late-game offense. Derrick White hit a 3-pointer with 4:47 remaining to put them ahead, 97-94. They only scored six points the rest of the way, and four of them were on the free throw line. On the home stretch they were 1 of 7 from the field with two turnovers. As happens too often in these situations, they slowed things down, tried to play isolated basketball, and didn’t look good.

The good news from the Celtics’ perspective is that these are fixable issues, and they’ve shown an ability to bounce back in the playoffs. They are 5-0 after a loss, and four of those wins are in double digits. The bad news is that to go 6-0 they will need to win a Game 7 on the road, which is not an easy proposition.

4. White’s big night is ruined

When the Celtics traded for Derrick White at the deadline, some felt the team gave up too much in sending Josh Richardson, their 2022 first-round pick and a 2028 first-round pick trade to the San Antonio Spurs. But Brad Stevens made the decision because he felt White was giving the team a chance to compete for a title.

So far in the playoffs, Stevens has proven himself right. White has stepped up in many places when Marcus Smart has been out of the lineup due to injury and gives them another defensive mind-setter who can handle the ball and involve others. On Friday night, however, it was White’s score that stood out.

When the Celtics desperately needed a fourth quarter spark, White delivered. He hit two 3-pointers, then drove inside for one-and-one which he celebrated with a roar to the ecstatic crowd. Later, with the Celtics still looking to take the lead, he delivered again. First a clean pass to find Al Horford for a 3 draw, then another 3 from the corner to put the Celtics ahead.

He finished with 22 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals off the bench in by far his best playoff outing. Alas, it was ruined because the Celtics couldn’t hold on.

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