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Kyle Lowry listened politely as Jimmy Butler shared credit for Miami’s Game 6 win until his fellow All-Star took the humility too far and called his 47-point performance, avoiding elimination, of “decent”.
“It’s (expletive) unbelievable,” Lowry corrected him, apologizing for his language to the TV cameras in the back of the room and pleading not to be fined by the league. “It’s amazing to have a guy like him next to me. I’ve played with great players and he’s one of the best.”
Butler scored 47 points — a career-high in the playoffs and one of the best performances by a player at risk of elimination in NBA history — and the 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 scored 45 points in a Game 6 in Boston en route to the Heat’s first of consecutive NBA titles, Butler scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to overtake him and send the series back to Miami.
With a home win, the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
“That’s how it should be, with those two teams. It should have been seven games,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m really delighted that our group has the opportunity to participate in a match 7 in front of our public.”
The winner of Game 7 on Sunday will advance to the NBA Finals against Golden State, which eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in five games on Thursday night. Warriors forward Draymond Green said afterwards that he expected to play against the Celtics.
In the most out-and-back game of the series, Boston took a 97-94 lead over Derrick White’s 3-pointer with less than five minutes to play – the first time in the entire series the lead changed hands. in the fourth quarter. Lowry responded with a 3, then added two free throws as Miami scored 11 of the next 13 points.
Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists before committing a foul with 2:18 left. Butler made 16 of 29 shots — including 4 of 8 from 3-point range — and all 11 free throws.
“He came off the jump and kind of left his mark on the game,” White said. “It’s just who he’s been his whole career, constantly attacking and doing what he does to help his team win. We knew it was coming, and we need to do a better job in Game 7.”
Jayson Tatum had 30 points and nine rebounds for Boston, and White came off the bench to score 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Celtics are trying to reach the Finals for the first time since 2010, two years after the New Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen won the franchise’s 17th NBA title – a record since tied by the Lakers.
“It’s no secret: It’s Game 7, the trip to the NBA Finals, a lot at stake,” Tatum said. “We know what’s at stake. We know how much it means to everyone.”
Jaylen Brown scored 20 points for Boston, missing a pair of free throws with the game tied at 99 after a foul by Lowry. Brown fouled himself on a charging offense that was assessed after a challenge on a missed dunk with 13 seconds left and the Celtics down four.
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