Celtics stay alive with last-second shot, force Game 7 vs. Heat in Eastern Conference finals
Boston avoids elimination with Derrick White's putback
The Boston Celtics are still alive. By a split second, but sometimes that's all it takes. With their season on the line, Derrick White tipped in an offensive rebound to beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at the buzzer, 104-103. The series is now tied 3-3 and will go back to Boston for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Monday. Boston is the fourth team to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in a series.
The Celtics controlled much of the game, and built a 10-point lead with just over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter. But the Heat thrive in those situations, and they made an incredible comeback to take the lead with three seconds to play when Jimmy Butler was fouled on a 3-pointer and knocked down all three free throws. After a timeout, the Celtics were stuck on their final possession, so Marcus Smart fired up a 3-pointer, which rimmed out but dropped right to White, who tipped it win for the win.
Jayson Tatum finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and five assists to lead the way for the Celtics, while Jaylen Brown added 26 points and 10 assists in his best game of the series. White, the hero, had 11 points, four rebounds and six assists, as the Celtics won despite shooting 7-of-35 from 3-point land.
Here are some key takeaways from the game:
White plays hero
The Celtics' season looked over after Jimmy Butler got fouled on a flailing 3-pointer with three seconds left and made all three free throws to put the Heat up by one. Even more so after Marcus Smart's 3-pointer coming out of the timeout did not stay down. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn't.
Derrick White came flying in from the weak side and tipped in the miss at the buzzer to win it for the Celtics and keep their season alive in miraculous fashion. White just feathered it home with his palms instead of grabbing it with his hands, which allowed him to release it quicker and was likely the difference between getting it off in time.
"At the end of games like that, we always, our guys talk about just crashing at the end of the game, give it a chance, and D-White made a great play," Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said. "Smart made a great play getting open to get a shot off, and D-White made a great play."
White's father, Richard, tweeted that the shot was the point guard's first ever game-winner. It could not have come at a better time.
White finished with 11 points, four rebounds, six assists and three blocks in another key all-around performance for the Celtics. He has elevated his play since the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers, and it has made a real difference, especially in the last three games.
Heat don't get enough from Butler and Adebayo
Jimmy Butler went to the podium after Game 5 and guaranteed that the Heat would win Game 6. He almost made it happen with some late-game heroics, but the Heat were lucky to even be in that position after he and Bam Adebayo struggled mightily on Saturday.
Those two scored just 35 points on a combined 9-of-37 from the field. Even stranger, they were 6-of-28 on their attempts in the paint. If it wasn't for another big night by Caleb Martin and a strong effort off the bench by Duncan Robinson, the Heat would not have even been in the game.
The Celtics have ramped up their defense in recent games, which has made it extremely difficult for the Heat to get good looks on a consistent basis, especially with Tyler Herro still sidelined due to a broken finger on his shooting hand. Butler and Adebayo simply have to step up to lead the way against that pressure, but they haven't done so yet. The good news is they'll have a chance to redeem themselves in Game 7.
Three-point shooting differential not enough for the Heat
Three-point shooting has been a key factor in every game of this series, but that trend didn't continue in Game 6. The Heat were lights out from downtown, knocking down 14-of-30 attempts, while the Celtics couldn't buy a bucket and went 7-of-35. Despite a 21-point advantage from behind the arc, the Heat didn't win the game.
For the playoffs, the Heat were 5-2 when making at least 14 3s and 4-0 when shooting at least 45 percent. Meanwhile, the Celtics' 20 percent mark was their worst between regular season and playoffs combined, and they were winless in the postseason when making fewer than 13 3s. Again, all of those trends were for naught in this one.
It's very rare that a team doesn't win a game when they make double the amount of 3-pointers, and the Celtics did so by getting to the free throw line and protecting the paint on the other end. But while this game went the Celtics' way, trends are trends for a reason. The team that makes more 3s in Game 7 will likely win.
Celtics on the verge of history
Not including this series, there have been 150 instances of a team taking a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series in NBA history. All 150 of them have advanced, and only three of them have even been pushed to seven games.
Now, the Celtics are on the verge of history. They've already become the fourth team to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, and have a real chance to become the first team to ever pull off the comeback. One big bonus for them, is they'll have Game 7 at home, and this group has won multiple home Game 7s in the last two postseasons.
Celtics build a cushion, can Heat make one last run?
The Celtics have struggled in close games this season, but they really responded to the Heat's surge to take the lead. Since then, they've outscored them 16-5 to build a double-digit lead with 4:10 to play. The Heat are one of the best comeback teams in the league, though, so you can't count them out
Celtics get a big swing with four-point possession
The Heat briefly grabbed their first lead since the first quarter, but the Celtics immediately took it back with a huge four-point possession. Jaylen Brown went to the basket and drew a foul, and the shot probably wasn't going in, but Bam Adebayo grabbed the rim, making it a goal tend. Adebayo was then hit with a technical foul for arguing the call, and Brown made both free throws to convert the four-point possession.
Third quarter: Celtics 79 -- Heat 72
Really strange quarter for both teams. Not a lot of easy looks being generated on either side, and Heat in particular lived at the free throw line. Celtics should probably be up by more, but turnovers and an inability to hit 3s have killed them. They're 5-25 from downtown. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, meanwhile, are 5-29 from the field, but the Heat are shooting 55 percent from 3.
Celtics can't buy a shot from downtown
The Celtics got back in this series in large part because they finally started hitting some 3-pointers in Games 4 and 5. They can't buy a shot this evening, however. They're now a brutal 4-20 from downtown, and clinging to a two-point lead. At some point, they're going to have to make a few shots if they want to win
Heat in the bonus super early
The Heat are already in the bonus with less than three minutes played in the quarter. That's going to give them a real advantage the rest of the frame, as the Celtics won't be able to be as aggressive defensively. This could end up swinging the game, especially with how much trouble the Heat have had getting clean looks
Brown avoids fourth foul
Jaylen Brown thought he had an and-one, but the Heat challenged the play and it was overturned to a no call on Caleb Martin. So the Heat's challenge was successful, but the basket stands, just no and-one. That's great news for the Celtics, as if it had been flipped to an offensive foul on Brown that would have been his fourth
Halftime: Celtics 57 -- Heat 53
Celtics have controlled this game, but they lead by just four at the break after the Heat worked their way back into the game towards the end of the half. Jayson Tatum has been terrific for the Celtics with 25 points to lead all scorers, while the Heat have been led by Caleb Martin, who has 14 points and nine rebounds.
Feels like the Celtics should be up by more, but the Heat have shot 9-15 from the 3-point line, while the Celtics are 3-15 from downtown. That difference has kept the Heat within striking distance despite not playing all that well overall
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