BOSTON — All Erik Spoelstra wanted to do after falling behind 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals was force a Game 7.
“If you want to break through and punch a ticket to the Finals, you’re going to have to do some ridiculously tough stuff,” Spoelstra said prior to Game 6. “Getting on to Boston and figuring that out collectively, those are the emotions and the breakthroughs that you have that you remember the rest of your life.”
Spoelstra got his wish thanks to Jimmy Butler.
On to Game 7. The Heat forced a series finale with a gutsy 111-103 road victory in Game 6 on Friday.
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Butler wouldn’t be denied, scoring a playoff career-high 47 points, the second time he has reached at least 40 points in this series. His desperation heave just before the shot clock expired put Miami ahead 107-101 with 43.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and his two free throws at 10.9 seconds made it 109-103.
Game 7 is Sunday in Miami (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) with the winner advancing to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
Here are four key takeaways from Game 6:
Butler saves the day
Butler had 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals — in the first half. Butler clearly isn’t 100% and missed the second half of Game 3 with right knee inflammation, but it didn’t matter in Game 6
In a magnificent, series-extending performance, he finished with 47 points after scoring 13, six and eight in the previous three games. He also collected nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block.
Given the competitor he is and with the Heat’s season on the line, it’s not a surprise Butler delivered that performance.
Celtics stars carry offensive load
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each had 18 points in the first half, scoring 36 of Boston’s 46 points in the first two quarters. They were a combined 12-for-20 shooting from the field, while the rest of the team was 3-for-18 shooting in the half.
Tatum had a team-high 30 points with nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Brown had just four points in the second half, ending with 20. He fouled out with 12.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a controversial charge that was originally called a block.
Lowry, Strus bounce back
Kyle Lowry, another injured Heat player, had his best game of the series with 18 points, 10 assists and four rebounds. He fouled out with 2:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Max Strus emerged from his shooting slump. At the Heat’s morning shootaround, Strus said the best way to bust out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting. And he did. He missed 16 consecutive shots in Games 4 and 5 but went 5-for-12 from the field in Game 6, including three 3s. He added 13 points.
White with another strong game off bench
Derrick White, who the Celtics acquired from San Antonio in a trade deadline deal, provided another spark off the bench. White had 14 points in Game 5 and followed that with 22 points, five assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block on Friday.
White had 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism