The Boston Celtics were on the verge of committing an unbelievable breakdown. Instead, they are only forty-eight minutes away from making history because of Derrick White.
An unlikely victory for the Boston Celtics over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals was secured on Saturday night by Derrick White’s tip-in of a missed 3-pointer by Marcus Smart with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock. The game’s final score was 104-103.
Before Miami came storming back to take the lead by one point with three seconds left, Boston had a 10-point advantage with less than five minutes left in the game. However, instead of their season coming to a disappointing conclusion, the Celtics became only the fourth team in the history of the NBA to advance to Game 7 of a playoff series after falling behind 3-0.
If they are victorious against the Heat at TD Garden on Monday night, they will have a chance to make history by being the first team in NBA history to win a series after falling behind 3-0.
However, before we move on to Game 7, let’s try to make some sense of the insanity that transpired at the Kaseya Center.
Going up and down on the roller coaster.
The Celtics are experts at putting their loyal fan base through its mental and emotional paces.
Game 6 was a game of runs, particularly in the fourth quarter when Boston went on a 16-5 run to build a 10-point lead and seemingly put the game away for good. Game 6 was a game of runs.
On the other hand, the Celtics failed to hold on to the rope when it mattered most, as they have done numerous times throughout this season. As a result, their offense ground to a halt, and in the last minutes of the game, they committed repeated fouls on Jimmy Butler, which made it possible for Miami to get back into the game.
Then the mayhem broke out.
The Celtics were leading by two points with just three seconds left on the clock when Al Horford committed a foul on Butler when he was shooting from the perimeter. After the Celtics protested the foul call, the officials concluded that Butler was hitting a 3-pointer and awarded him three free throws. The Heat were trailing by two points before Butler’s coolly executed three-point shot, which put them ahead by one point.
For Celtics supporters, it played out like a scene from a classic horror movie, especially when Smart attempted an off-balance 3-point shot on Boston’s final possession. But Derrick White came through in the nick of time to save the day, which prevented the C’s from engaging in a great deal of self-reflection had they been victorious.
The Celtics rely on a cast of well-known players to handle the strain.
The core trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart should be the ones to step up and carry the team in an elimination game on the road.
Both Tatum (31 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks) and Brown (26 points, ten rebounds, and two steals) loaded the stat sheet for Boston, while Smart’s (21 points) second 20-point game was a significant boost for the C’s.
The trio of Tatum, Brown, and Smart played complementary basketball in this matchup: Tatum was red-hot in the first half, scoring 25 points on 7 of 13 shooting, but he went scoreless in the third quarter. Brown led the team in scoring with 23 points. After that, Brown and Smart stepped up to the plate, scoring a combined 16 of Boston’s 22 points in the period to keep the C’s in the game and keep them from sinking.
Together with Derrick White’s eight points, Tatum, Brown, and Smart contributed to the Celtics’ scoring in the fourth quarter, which resulted in all 25 of the team’s points being scored in the game’s final period.
Since Malcolm Brogdon could not play because of an injury, Boston’s finest players needed to step up, and they did just enough to pull off the victory over Miami.
A victory for the Celtics that is the first of its sort.
This entire season, the 3-point shot has been the most important indicator of the success of the Celtics, but Saturday was an extremely uncommon exception.
The victory for Boston, which was the first time the team had prevailed in the postseason while shooting 12 or fewer three-pointers, came despite the team only making 7 of 35 three-point attempts (a percentage of 20). Before, the C’s had a record of 0-6 when they made 12 or fewer three-pointers but a record of 10-2 when they hit 13 or more.
Meanwhile, Miami was successful beyond the arc, scoring 21 more points than Boston did on three-point shots by making twice as many three-point shots (14 for 30) than the Celtics did.
So, how exactly did the Celtics pull off the upset and win the game? You can thank their interior defense for this, which limited the Heat’s 2-point shooting percentage to an embarrassingly low 30.2%.
The Heat’s two-point shooting percentage of 30.2 percent was the second-worst of any team this season (regular season or playoffs), and the Heat is just the second club in the last nine years to have such a discrepancy between their two-point shooting % and their three-point shooting percentage.
The Celtics got away with a win despite having a lot of bad luck at the Kaseya Center; if they want to make history in TD Garden, they will need their three-point shots to go in on Monday night.