Jimmy Butler poured in 47 points, a career playoff high for a player facing elimination in NBA history, as the Miami Heat forced a Game 7 after pulling off an 111-103 win over the Boston Celtics in their Eastern Conference finals on Friday night (Saturday in the Philippines) at the latter’s homecourt TD Garden.
Playing 45 minutes and 47 seconds amid a knee injury, Butler exceeded expectations as he drilled in 16 of 29 shots, including four triples, and 11 free throws. He also issued eight assists and grabbed nine rebounds on top of four steals and one block.
“It feels good to make shots as a whole… I just want to win and play basketball the right way – do whatever my teammates need me to do, to score, to pass, to guard whatever it takes to get it done. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Butler said in a post-game interview.
He said he took a good rest, iced his injured knee, and got a massage to get his hurt knee ready for the game. “I do the same thing every single day. I’ll do it, maybe, tonight, tomorrow, and before the game and be ready to rock.”
Butler was especially hyped up when he received a call from Dwyane Wade who played 16 years for Miami and won three NBA championships.
He said, “Dwyane never hits me, and, until like his voice is really really needed and it was, and I texted him and told him I appreciate him for it, just letting me know to to go out there, continue to build on that legacy, you know make sure that we win.”
“Yeah, I think we just did our job. We’ve been saying this in the entire series. It’s not finished yet, we got game 7… and we need to win,” Butler added as he gave credit to Lowry, coach Erik Spoelstra, and his teammates who he said led him “to be aggressive to go out there and be the best player on the floor. I just gotta remember that every time I take the floor.”
Kyle Lowry came up with a huge trey and two free throws for the Heat to snatch the lead after Boston took a 97-94 advantage following Derrick White’s three-pointer barely five minutes left in the game.
“I think we just, you know, we won a game. We haven’t done much. We still got to go home and protect home, while we do it to go out there win a basketball game. That’s what really matters, try to win one game,” Lowry said.
Lowry said they played with a little more confidence. “We knew we needed to make some shots.
As a great defensive team and I give them credit for how they’ve been guarding us
and forcing us into things we don’t wanna do. We just had more opportunities to try to win one more game.”
He admitted playing “bad” before and that he’s never making any excuses. But in Game 6, he said, “I had the opportunity to redeem myself. I’ve got great guys in our team, great organization, great people in my life who just support me no matter what it is, ups downs, you know. Tonight is one of the chances that our coach said, a legacy game, and having a guy like him (Butler) next to me helps.”
Coach Spoelstra, for his part, lauded his players whom he described as guys who love basketball, love the challenge, and have deep respect for their opponent.
“The margin of error for both sides is so small… I’m just really thrilled that our group gets an opportunity to compete in Game 7 in front of our home crowd,” he said.
He cited the Celtics for being a very good team that brings out the best in his players on a different level.
Spoelstra said, “In a long series like this, you’re going to get pushed and get uncomfortable sometimes. You’ve got to lose some battles along the way, some very tough times during the series but we have guys who know to just pick themselves up and get on to the next fight.”
The playoff, according to him, has also brought wild swings of emotions and they just have to find out what’s real and what’s not real, what’s objective and not get caught up in these wild swings.
“We have a very passionate group. We have guys that love competition and unders how difficult it is to do what we’re trying to do. We’re facing a very good team. Our guys just embraced that kind of challenge in the comp that we’re faced with. Their defense is so strong that sometimes you just need to get your great player, you know, to make plays. Jimmy brought his competitive will tonight and it’s the will that will not let us lose,” he added.
He went on saying that he just wants his players to embrace the moment. He also praised Butler’s competitiveness that was very evident in the game.
The Heat’s two-time NBA champion coach also said, “Jimmy put his fingerprints on this game,
very wild swings. We’re gonna try to go back to our cave and focus on Game 7. We are more grateful. We’re really grateful to be in a very challenging series like this against an opponent we respect and experience Game 7 together. We have to go through tough things and accomplish something special. I think this group deserves Game 7.”
With Boston tightening its defense in the second half made them uncomfortable, Spoelstra said. Thus they have to execute with precision, do things with detail and purpose.
“But sometimes you just need your best players and your guy to make plays and he (Butler) was able to do that. He knows moments of truth when we really need it. He found us a very important bucket. He’s definitely a two-way player,” he said.
He said that a competitive player would keep picking himself up.
Spoelstra continued, “Playoffs are tough, they really are. It’s really hard to win and you get to this level when 27 teams are watching. You get to this elite level, you have to be able to manage everything. You can’t control everything. You’re facing great competition and you are going to lose some battle then ur trying to win battles more than you lose. Jimmy doesn’t stop. I thought in the last game, you know, we missed a lot of shots but our competitive will was there. We just got up and played. Sometimes, it happens that if you’re a real competitor, you keep on going.”
Meanwhile, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who sank 30 baskets with nine rebounds, knows that the rubber match is a do-or-die kind of thing.
Tatum said, “It’s no secret: It’s Game 7, trip to the NBA Finals, a lot on the line. We know what’s at stake. We know how much this means to everybody.”
White chipped in 22 points coming off the bench for the Celtics who are fighting to stay alive for the coveted spot in the NBA 2022 Finals against the Golden State Warriors who earlier eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in a Game 5 120-110 victory at Chase Center.
Jaylen Brown added 20 points for the team.
Warriors forward Draymond Green reportedly said that he expected to play the Celtics.
The winner gets the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco for Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday, June 2 (Friday, June 3 in the Philippines).