The two greatest words in all of sports: “Game Seven.”
Even with all of the players they have dealing with injuries and after losing two straight games in this series after scoring 82 points and 80 points in Games 4 and 5, respectively, the Miami Heat were able to come out of Game 6 against the Boston Celtics with a 111-103 hard-fought road victory to even up this series at 3-3 and force one more Eastern Conference Finals game in Miami.
The grit and toughness the Heat showed all night long was borderline miraculous given how out of this series they looked over the last couple of games. Defensively, the Heat really dug deep in Game 6 and it seemed like every time the Celtics would go on a little bit of a run, Miami would have an answer for them.
At times, this answer was a big shot by Kyle Lowry or Max Strus out on the perimeter, but this team’s answer all night long was Jimmy Butler.
There are no words to describe Butler in the postseason other than elite.
Scoring a playoff career-high 47 points on Friday night, Jimmy Butler was able to fight through a lingering knee injury to carry his team to a win while facing elimination. This 47-point performance for the Heat’s All-Star was not only impressive because their backs were up against the wall and their season was on the line, but because Butler had only scored a combined 27 points the last three games of this series going into Game 6 in Boston!
Finishing the game with 47 points on 4-8 from three-point range, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals, Butler also became just the second player in NBA Playoff history with multiple 40-point, 4-steal games in a single playoff series, joining the great Michael Jordan who did so in 1988.
While it seemed like Boston was well on their way to winning this series in front of their home faithful, they will now have to hop back on the plane and head back to Miami for a third time in this series where a potential franchise-altering Game 7 awaits them.
Everything is on the line for both teams and with a ticket to the NBA Finals on the line, Sunday’s game should be full of fireworks.
Looking back on Game 6 though, there is a lot to talk about before the final game of this series. Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Heat’s victory in Boston on Friday night.
Kyle Lowry’s Production Is The Difference For Miami
The Miami Heat needed every single one of Jimmy Butler’s 47 points in Game 6 with their season on the line, but Kyle Lowry’s play is what really helped elevate this team back to where we have seen them all year long.
Dealing with a hamstring injury that would likely sideline him for a few weeks if we were in the regular season, Lowry really stepped up on both ends of the court for Miami after some really poor performances.
The six-time All-Star had only played in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5 prior to Friday’s game and in those three games, Lowry had scored a combined 14 points on 5-23 (21.7%) from the floor and while he had a combined 8 assists, he also had 7 turnovers.
"I gotta play better, I'm playing terrible," Lowry said following the Heat's loss in Game 5. "It is what it is. I'm out there, so I gotta do a better job."
In Game 6 on Friday, the veteran point guard finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 10 assists and just 2 turnovers, really making a difference for the Heat on both ends of the floor and stepping up when it mattered most in the series.
He was aggressive shooting the ball from the perimeter, putting pressure on Boston’s defense to close out to him and open up driving opportunities for Jimmy Butler in the lane, and Lowry’s efficiency defensively really bothered the Celtics’ tempo on offense.
Whether it was trying to draw charges or outmuscling his opponent on the perimeter, Lowry found ways to get under the skin of the Celtics, really helping fortify this already strong Heat defense.
While he may only be playing on one healthy leg, every positive minute Kyle Lowry can give the Heat in Game 7 is going to go a long way in them possibly making the NBA Finals this year. With Bam Adebayo struggling and Tyler Herro sidelined due to a groin injury, Lowry must continue to step up and be the complimentary All-Star Jimmy Butler need and the Heat acquired him to be.
Turnovers Led To The Celtics Losing
You can point to some questionable foul calls made or some missed shots and say that this is the reason Boston lost Game 6, but at the end of the day, their sloppiness on the offensive-end of the floor handed Miami this game on a silver platter.
Not only did their 18 turnovers lead to quick scoring opportunities for Jimmy Butler and the Heat, but the Celtics gave away a ton of scoring opportunities on their end of things with these turnovers on Friday night.
They finished the game taking six less shots than Miami and who knows, maybe just two more shot attempts would have resulted in two extra three-pointers and a different outcome in the game!
Ball security must be a point of emphasis for head coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics’ coaching staff heading into Game 7, especially since turnovers have been Boston’s Achilles heel in their three losses against Miami this postseason.
Prior to their 18 turnovers in Game 6, the Celtics turned the ball over 16 times in Game 1 and 24 times in Game 3, both games resulting in a Heat victory.
In these three losses now, the Celtics are averaging 19.3 turnovers per game and in their three victories, the Celtics are averaging just 12.0 turnovers per game.
That is a very wide margin for just one series and it is very clear to see what the Celtics need to do better. Of course, you have to credit the Heat and their defensive efforts in their three wins, but a lot of Boston’s carelessness is because they are trying to rush things.
Their patient offense and playing to their strengths has made them an elite-level team all year long, which is why the Boston Celtics must take control of the moment and really value every possession they get on offense in Game 7 on Sunday if they are to have a chance at advancing to the NBA Finals.
Health Will Win This Series
So much is going to happen in Game 7 and we should expect nothing more than a back-and-forth type of game like we just saw in Game 6 up in Boston.
However, player health is going to play a big factor in who ultimately wins this series, as both teams are dealing with key injuries right now.
For Miami, Jimmy Butler is playing through a knee injury, Kyle Lowry has one good hamstring, a handful of their role players are a little dinged up and Tyler Herro has not played since Game 3 due to a groin injury.
For Boston, Marcus Smart continues to deal with a sprained ankle and Robert Williams III is not 100% either, as he has been dealing with left knee soreness stemming from torn meniscus back in March.
Whichever team has the higher pain tolerance and can give it their all is going to win this series and for Miami, their training staff doing everything they can over the next day or so to get Tyler Herro on the court is pivotal.
His presence means so much to Miami’s offense, especially since he was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year this season and finished second on the team in scoring during the regular season behind just Jimmy Butler.
A somewhat healthy Herro opens the floor even more offensively for the Heat and forces the Celtics to play a little bit more spread out defensively given his ability to shoot from the perimeter.
On the other side of things, Robert Williams III has had a major impact defensively for the Celtics all season long and has really been a high-level rim-protector in this series against Miami. Keeping him out on the floor, along with the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart means everything to the Celtics’ defense.
At this point in the season through this many games, injuries are something teams have to deal with and for both the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, they could ultimately mean getting to or losing right before the NBA Finals.
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