Celtics

Celtics-Heat takeaways: Jimmy Butler forces Game 7 with 47-point outburst

Celtics

BOSTON -- Celtics fans were hoping to celebrate an Eastern Conference championship Friday night at TD Garden, but the Miami Heat had other plans.

The Heat staved off elimination with a hard-fought 111-103 victory in Game 6, sending the series back to FTX Arena in Miami for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday night.

Jimmy Butler saved the Heat's season with an amazing 47-point performance. It's his second 40-point game of the series. Kyle Lowry chipped in 18 points in a bounce-back performance for the veteran point guard.

The winner of Sunday's Game 7 will play the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals.

Before we look ahead to that must-win matchup, here are three takeaways from Celtics-Heat Game 6.

1) Jimmy Butler gives incredible performance

Butler played poorly over the last three games, scoring just 27 points combined on 25 percent shooting (10-of-40). A knee issue has hampered him in this series, but you never would've guessed that by watching him play in Game 6.

The Heat star nearly tallied a triple-double in the first half. He scored 21 points with nine rebounds and six assists. He finished with 47 points (16-of-29 shooting), nine rebounds, eight assists and 4 steals. He played 46 of a possible 48 minutes.

Butler was aggressive driving to the basket, he hit his free throws (11-of-11) and he even sunk several of his 3-point attempts (4-of-8). 

Butler took a lot of criticism from fans and the media after his underwhelming Game 5 performance. He responded in a major way Friday night to silence the doubters. It was the type of effort Miami desperately needed from its best player with the season on the line.

 

2) 3-point barrage lifts Heat

The Heat shot just 29.2 percent from 3-point range through the first five games of this series, which was 8.7 percent below their regular season rate.

Miami was especially bad in Game 5, hitting just seven of 45 attempts from beyond the arc.

Game 6 was a very different story as the Heat shot 15-of-35 (42.9 percent) on 3-pointers. They outscored the Celtics by 12 points on 3-point field goals, and it was a major factor in the outcome.

Kyle Lowry and Max Strus were a combined 0-of-12 from beyond the arc in Game 5. They hit seven 3-pointers between them in Game 6. 

The Celtics had the best 3-point defense in the regular season. It let them down Friday night.

3) Celtics wilt down the stretch

The game was tied 99-99 with 2:18 remaining and Jaylen Brown at the free throw line. He missed both attempts. Butler came down and put the Heat up 102-99 with a 3-point play. 

The next Boston possession ended in a Jayson Tatum turnover. Butler was fouled on the ensuing Miami possession and hit two more free throws. 

The ugliness didn't end there for the Celtics. After a missed shot, P.J. Tucker grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Derrick White under Miami's basket. Tucker made one free throw to put the Heat ahead 105-99 with 1:25 remaining.

Butler increased the lead to 107-101 by hitting another clutch shot with 39.5 seconds remaining. It didn't matter that the shot clock was winding down and there was a hand in his face.

The Heat outscored the Celtics 11-4 over the final 2:18 of the fourth quarter and closed the game on a 17-6 run.

Poor late-game execution has been a problem for the Celtics all season, and it plagued them again at the worst possible time in Game 6. 

The Celtics must fix this issue or their season will end Sunday.