BOSTON — The hobbled Miami Heat pushed the Boston Celtics to a Game 7 on sheer guts.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler, playing on a balky right knee, registered the sixth 40-point playoff game of his career and third this season, amassing 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals in a 111-103 victory against his hosts in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. His dagger 20-foot jump shot as time expired on the shot clock in the final minute gave the Heat a six-point lead from which the Celtics could not recover.
Kyle Lowry, playing on a strained hamstring, added 18 points and 10 assists in 37 minutes for Miami. His five straight points in response to Boston taking its first lead of the fourth quarter swung the momentum.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both scored 18 first-half points and respectively finished with 30 and 20. Derrick White’s 22 points off the bench gave the Celtics a second-half boost, but their 17 turnovers and 11 offensive rebounds allowed, plus Brown’s two late missed free throws, were too much to overcome.
The Heat host the deciding game of the series on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Both teams had chances to pull away from each other in the first half.
The Heat jumped out to a 19-9 lead against a Celtics team that looked ill-prepared early for the demand of a Game 6. Butler picked off a Tatum pass and found Max Strus for a transition 3-point attempt that sailed wide. The Celtics responded with six straight points to cut what could have been a 13-point deficit to three.
Butler was the best player on the floor in the first quarter, scoring or assisting 10 of Miami’s 12 field goals and finishing the frame with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, but Tatum responded in the second quarter, scoring Boston’s first nine points. Eleven straight points from Brown gave the Celtics a 42-41 edge, and Tatum missed a 3-point attempt that would have pushed the lead to seven with a minute left in the half.
Two more Boston turnovers led to four straight Bam Adebayo points, and the Heat took a 48-46 lead into the half, which felt like a break for the Celtics. Miami was 8 for 16 from 3-point range in the first two quarters, and the Heat were cooking the same recipe that had worked for them all series. Miami scored 16 points off Boston’s 12 first-half turnovers and eight second-chance points on eight offensive rebounds.
The Heat extended their lead back to double digits when back-to-back 3-pointers by Victor Oladipo and Strus capped an 11-0 run that gave them a 70-58 lead midway through the third quarter. The Celtics trimmed the deficit to 82-75 by the end of the third, and a Derrick White 3-pointer cut it to four on the first possession of the fourth quarter, breathing life back into a TD Garden crowd that was feeling the pressure.
The Heat had an answer for every Celtics run. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Al Horford and White gave Boston its first lead since the opening minute of the third quarter, 97-94. Lowry answered with five straight. The Celtics had a chance to regain the lead again, but Brown missed consecutive free throws. Butler’s three-point play on the other end put Miami back on top, 102-99. Three P.J. Tucker free throws on a pair of non-shooting fouls gave the Heat a two-possession lead the Celtics could not erase in the last 85 seconds.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Leak Herald Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach