Hug your closest Miami Heat fan. The Boston Celtics forced a Game 7, thanks to a miracle from Derrick White.
After falling 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, White’s tip as time expired gave the Celtics a 104-103 win over the Heat in Game 6 on Saturday to send off the series to a win-win showdown in Boston on Monday to decide who will face the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.
Game 7 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
The Celtics made history just by forcing a Game 7, joining the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers, 1994 Denver Nuggets and 1951 New York Knicks in a night series after losing 3-0. Now they can find out if they are the first team in that group to win.
Celtics hero Derrick White
The Heat may be in the midst of a meltdown, but the game nearly ended with Boston collapsing. The Celtics led by as much as 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, then regained the lead.
The Heat’s final points came on an unreal turn of events, when Al Horford’s foul on Jimmy Butler as he won 2 points with 2.1 seconds remaining was reviewed to see if he was behind the score line. 3 points. Butler was determined to be behind the line and that meant three free throws for Butler, who hit them all, and the time remaining was adjusted to 3.0 seconds. It turned out to be a huge deal.
The Celtics got the ball back and Marcus Smart went for a desperate 3-pointer, which missed. However, as the Miami crowd cheered and thought the game was over, White got the rebound and tipped the ball over to win the game.
It didn’t look like White fired in time, but the replay confirmed him as the hero.
It was still a nasty victory for the Celtics
Until about five minutes from the end of the fourth, the Celtics looked like a top team again against a play-in side. Unlike the previous two games, however, they didn’t do this by shooting lights from 3 points. Instead, it was a suffocating defensive effort anchored by center Robert Williams and a tough shooting night for Miami from 2 points.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, once the dominant forces in this series, looked like shells of themselves for most of the game. They entered the fourth quarter shooting 5 of 29 from the field. As a team overall, the Heat finished the game shooting 13 of 34 in the paint, but shot well three (46.7%) to stay in the game.
Meanwhile, the Celtics struggled to shoot from deep, finishing 7 of 35 from three, but made up for it with a pair of good nights from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Heat’s defense struggled to stay ahead of both all night, and the pair combined for 57 points.
The whole game really should have been more explosive, especially when the Celtics took a 13-point lead in the third quarter. What kept Miami in the game was their group of previously unknown players, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson.
The Heat continued to push late into the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, at one point taking the lead on a rare field goal inside Butler.
It didn’t last. Brown scored on the next possession to regain control of the Celtics. Three minutes later, they were up 10 again. And then the Heat came back, again. If it hadn’t been for a pair of missed 3-point Robinsons in the final minutes, we’d be talking about a very different game.
But he did, and the Heat ultimately lost despite regaining the lead with Butler’s free throws in the final seconds. Despite this return, they still seemed less talented than the Celtics. They seemed to grind. What they were. It just didn’t feel like the path to victory he was doing when they were doing all the hitting and hustling plays in the first three games.
And now the Heat need a win on Monday to avoid joining the New York Yankees in 2004 and giving Boston a 3-0 lead.