The Miami Heat aren't dead just yet. We will have a do-or-die Game 7 on Sunday night in South Beach after Jimmy Butler led the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference to a crucial 111-103 victory in Game 6 at TD Garden to extend this series and keep their title hopes alive.
Butler was fantastic for Miami when they needed him to be the most as he finished the win with a game-high 47 points to go along with nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Butler also had plenty of help as Kyle Lowry turned in one of his best games of the postseason finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and four boards before ultimately fouling out.
For Boston, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did all they could to lead the Celtics to their first Finals berth since 2010 but, in the end, it wasn't enough that the two combined for 50 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists while shooting a combined 15/25 from the field.
Now, we'll enjoy the best thing that sports can offer on Sunday night. A Game 7.
Here are four key takeaways from 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 on the Heat and went back home with a chance to close things out. LeBron James did not let that happen, as he put together his famous "Game 6" performance, finishing with 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists to crush the Celtics' dreams.
On Friday night, Butler reprised the role.
After being a no-show for the past few games, he was flat-out tremendous in this one. Driving to the lane for powerful finishes and free throws, tough jumpers to beat the shot clock, jumping into passing lanes for steals -- he did a little 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 steals. Butler has had some huge nights throughout his career, including in the Finals, so it may not be his very best performance, but it's right up there.
2. Miami finally made some shots
In Games 4 and 5, the Heat shot a combined 60-of-184 (32.6 percent) from the field overall and 21-of-81 (25.9 percent) from 3-point land. They looked like they were out of gas and out of answers against an elite Celtics defense, and there was little reason to expect things would turn around in Game 6.
But, of course, as the old saying goes: that's why we play the games. While Butler led the way, another key factor in the Heat's season-saving win is that they finally made some shots. They knocked down 15 3-pointers, which was their most in a game this series and second-most in the entire playoffs, and shot 46.2 percent from the field.
Even more importantly, they came up with every single clutch shot that they needed. Aside from fouling too much, the Celtics' defense was largely impressive again. The Heat's shot-making was just better. Time and again they hit deep 3s and shot-clocking beating jumpers with a hand in their face.
This one, from Max Strus, was the best of the bunch.
3. Celtics can't quite close it out
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka summed things up well during his postgame press conference: "We've won there, but we make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be."
The Celtics came into Friday night's Game 6 with a chance to close out the series and advance to the Finals for the first time since 2010. Instead, they'll have to make another trip to Miami for Game 7, where they'll need to win for the third time in the series in order to keep their season alive.
And while Jimmy Butler's effort and the Heat's shot-making shouldn't be discounted, it once again feels like the Celtics let a win slip through their fingers.
First and foremost, they turned 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. Once again, the formula is pretty simple: if the Celtics take care of the ball, they win. For the playoffs, they're now 1-4 with more than 15 turnovers and 10-12 when they stay at or below that number.
Another classic Celtics problem that cropped up in Game 6 was poor late-game offense. Derrick White hit a 3-pointer with 4:47 remaining to put them in front, 97-94. They only scored six points the rest of the way, and four of those were at the free-throw line. Over the closing stretch, they were 1-of-7 from the field with two turnovers. As too often happens in these situations, they slowed things down, tried to play isolation basketball and didn't get good looks.
The good news from the Celtics' perspective is these are fixable problems, and they've shown an ability to bounce back in the playoffs. They're 5-0 following a loss, and four of those wins have come by double figures. The bad news is to make it 6-0 they'll have to win a Game 7 on the road, which is not an easy proposition.
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4. White's big night goes to waste
When the Celtics traded for Derrick White at the deadline, there were some who felt the team gave up too much by sending Josh Richardson, their 2022 first-round pick and a 2028 first-round pick swap to the San Antonio Spurs. But Brad Stevens made the move because he felt White gave the team a chance to compete for a title.
So far in the playoffs, Stevens has been proven correct. White has stepped up in numerous spots when Marcus Smart has been out of the lineup due to injuries and gives them another defensive-minded guard who can handle the ball and get others involved. On Friday night, though, it was White's scoring that stood out.
With the Celtics in desperate need of a spark in the fourth quarter, White delivered. He hit two 3-pointers and then drove inside for an and-one that he celebrated with a roar to the ecstatic crowd. Later on, with the Celtics still looking to take the lead, he delivered again. First, a sharp pass to find Al Horford for a game-tying 3, then another 3 of his own from the corner to put the Celtics in front.
He finished with 22 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals off the bench in by far his best outing of the playoffs. Alas, it went to waste because the Celtics couldn't hold on down the stretch.