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Behind Jimmy Butler’s heroics, Heat stun Celtics in Boston, force Game 7 in Miami

Jimmy Butler in Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Six

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 27: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat looks to pass between Al Horford #42 and Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics during the second half in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 27, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

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Stop the presses on those Heat obituaries.

Jimmy Butler overcame a knee injury that looked debilitating just a couple days ago to score 47 points and lead Miami to a shocking 111-103 win over the Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday in Boston. Down and counted out, the Heat will host Game 7 at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Home teams have won 75% of Game 7s. But Miami faces plenty of challenges. Butler had to play 46 minutes just to continue the series, and he’s not necessarily completely past his knee problems. Already battling hamstring issues, Kyle Lowry was limping late. Unlike most teams without homecourt advantage, the Celtics have been the better team for months.

Yet, the Heat ought to be proud about merely giving themselves a chance by winning tonight. In the first thrilling playoff game in weeks, Miami battled and persevered through numerous gut-check moments.

Especially Butler.

His performance was reminiscent of another Miami forward’s the last time the Heat faced a Game 6 in Boston down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James boosted his legacy by staving off elimination in 2012. Too often overlooked, Butler deserves all the praise coming his way. Really, he might have even outdone LeBron:

  • LeBron in 2012: 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 steals
  • Butler tonight: 47 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals

Butler, who has repeatedly put Miami on his back this postseason, got just enough help.

Despite calls to bench them, Kyle Lowry (18 points and 10 assists) and Max Strus (13 points) started and turned in positive performances. After fouling out, Lowry had one of the night’s biggest – and most controversial – plays with his bench closeout on an Al Horford 3-pointer:

Jayson Tatum (30 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and seven turnovers) and Jaylen Brown (20 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and four turnovers) did a lot of damage – early. Miami successfully adjusted its defense to stop those Celtics stars.

Brown scored just two points in the second half, missing a pair of free throws in crunch time. Tatum made only one shot and committed four turnovers in the fourth quarter.

With extra attention on Tatum and Brown, Derrick White scored 18 of his 22 points in the final 18 minutes. But he cooled late. The perils of relying on role players in big moments.

On the other hand, the Heat made 15-of-35 3-pointers (43%). Many of those 3s were especially deep and off balance. So, maybe that shooting isn’t sustainable.

But it doesn’t have to be. This is the time of year for small samples.

Now, a one-game sample will determine whether Miami or Boston goes to the NBA Finals.