What. A. Game.
In the best game of these playoffs — as good as one in any postseason — it looked like the Miami Heat were going to get a culture win on a night their star Jimmy Butler was off his game until the final minutes. Three Butler free throws with :03 remaining put the Heat up by one, but the Celtics got one last chance. Marcus Smart short-armed that chance, but Derrick White was hustling along the baseline.
Miami gets the 104-103 win to even the series 3-3 and force a Memorial Day Game 7 back in Boston.
This was the kind of ugly, gritty game the Celtics tend to give away. They were certainly not at their peak in this one, shooting 7-of-35 from 3 as a team — usually a stat that leads to a loss for this Celtics team, which leans into the 3-pointer.
What saved them was a brilliant first half from Jayson Tatum, some solid play from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart in the second half, and an off night at the worst time for the Heat stars.
The first half was the Tatum show as he scored 25 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with 11 free throws and a couple of assists. He was attacking and aggressive, and the rest of the Celtics offense flowed off that and they got the lead up to 11.
However, the Heat closed that lead down to four at the half, 57-53, thanks largely to 9-of-15 shooting from 3.
This was almost a culture win for the Heat. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were not the stars the Heat needed — they shot a combined 7-of-35 until the final minutes of the game — but the Miami role players stepped up. Caleb Martin got the start over Kevin Love and was the Heat’s best player on the night with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting plus 15 rebounds. Gabe Vincent returned from his sprained ankle to score 15, Duncan Robinson had 13 off the bench, and Max Strus added 10.
With their stars off their game the Heat struggled to score in the third, starting the quarter shooting 5-of-24 (20.8%), yet by the time the quarter was over the Heat were still only down seven. Miami was hanging around in a game they should have been blown out of.
That’s because the Celtics shot 5-of-25 from 3 through 3 quarters, plus Boston had 11 turnovers through three (compared to four for the Heat).
Tatum finished with 31 points to lead Boston, Jaylen Brown had 26 despite battling foul trouble all night, and Marcus Smart added 21.
Boston had a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but gave it away with missed shots and sloppy play under pressure. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler hit a big 3-pointer, kept attacking, and got to the free throw line with the chance to put his team ahead in the final seconds. And did. It looked like a classic, gutty, Heat culture win.
And then Derrick White happened.
And now there is a Game 7.
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