BOSTON (AP) – Jimmy Butler had 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Miami Heat forced the Eastern Conference Finals to a decisive seventh game by beating the Boston Celtics 111-103 on Friday night.
Ten years after LeBron James had 45 points in Boston to help the Heat avoid Game 6 elimination heading into the first of their back-to-back NBA titles, Butler scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to top him and send series back to Miami.
With a win at home Sunday, the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
“That’s the way it should be with these two teams. It should have been seven games,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
In the most back-and-forth game in the series, Boston took a 97-94 lead on Derrick White’s 3-pointer with less than five minutes to play – the first time the entire series lead has changed hands in the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry responded with a 3 and then added two free throws as Miami scored 11 of the next 13 points.
Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists before striking out with 2:18 left. Butler made 16 of 29 shots and hit 4 of 8 from 3-point range and all 11 free throws.
“Matching his intensity from the start was not there,” Celtic coach Ime Udoka said. “Understanding that he would put it on his shoulders and we did not match it.”
Jayson Tatum had 30 points and nine rebounds, and Derrick White came off the bench to score 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for Boston. The Celtics are trying to reach the final for the first time since 2010.
Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 20 points and missed a couple of free throws with the match drawn to 99 after Lowry had failed. Brown defiled himself on an accusation offensive that was assessed after a challenge on a missed dunk with 13 seconds left and the Celtics down by four.
Butler’s 47 points were the seventh most in NBA history for a player facing elimination.
Elgin Baylor had 61 against Boston in Game 5 of the 1962 finals. Wilt Chamberlain topped 50 three times, Sleepy Floyd had 50 against the Lakers in 1987 and Jamal Murray scored 50 against Utah in 2020.
It was also the third most to ward off elimination against the Celtics. In addition to Baylor, Chamberlain had 50 in Game 5 of the 1960 Eastern Finals.
James’ 45 against Boston in Game 6 of the 2012 Conference Finals set the stage for a Game 7 victory in Miami.
The Heat hope Butler’s performance can do the same.
“I understand, people can easily draw comparisons between the two,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a different era. It’s a different team. I want our guys to embrace this moment.”
IN AND OUT
Miami guard Tyler Herro missed his third game in a row with a strained groin, costing the team its No. 2 scorer. Kyle Lowry (hoarding), Max Strus (hoarding) and PJ Tucker (knee) had been noted as questionable, but were in the starting lineup.
Boston’s Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and Robert Williams III (sore knee) tested their injuries prior to the game and were also in the ranks.
Heat: Butler had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in the first. He scored or assisted on 24 of Miami’s 29 points in the quarter.
Celtics: Red Sox glutton David Ortiz, who was inducted into the ball club’s Hall of Fame Thursday night, was on the field. Ortiz threw a ceremonial first pitch out at Fenway Park earlier in the evening. Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez also took part in the match wearing his World Series ring.
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