Here are the takeaways as Jimmy Butler and the Heat battled their way to a Game 7 at home by beating the Celtics 111-103 in Game 6 on Friday.
1. First and foremost: stop counting Jimmy Butler.
Seriously, it’s a bad idea. After Game 6, Butler told the ESPN broadcast — in a calm, controlled voice — that he hadn’t heard the story. He claimed he didn’t know people counted the Heat and that the only people he listens to are people in the organization.
Butler is just different enough to make you wonder if he’s telling the truth, but of course he isn’t. Everyone in the NBA hears everything, and Butler is no exception. When he inexplicably started burying three-pointers, the Celtics had their first hint that they were in trouble. He cut several defenders back and patiently worked his way to good shots in his comfort zone. He reached the free throw line. Everyone is talking about LeBron James’ performance in Game 6 against the Celtics in 2012, but Butler surpassed James’ score by 47 points on Friday (James had 45).
“It’s those winning, intentional games,” said Erik Spoelstra. “In that second half, their defense started to ramp up. We had a double digit lead. You’re in front of such a defense, you don’t feel comfortable at all. You really have to execute with precision and do things with detail and purpose .”
“Jimmy Butler is a great competitor; he really is”, adds Spoelstra. “You can misdefine him in many different ways, but his competitive will is as strong as anyone who has played this game. He put his fingerprints on this game.”
2. We should also add that the Draymond Green thing is real: The Heat were irritated that the star of the Warriors pronounced their team dead in the water. On Thursday, after the Warriors defeated the Mavericks and knocked their ticket to the Finals, Green told the TNT crew that the Warriors would eventually play against the Celtics. Longtime Heat big man Udonis Haslem told ESPN’s broadcasting crew to say “Thank you” to Green for his comments.
Haslem addressed his comments in an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
“Draymond broke the code,” Haslem said. ‘You are not meant to say such a thing. That’s disrespectful. He knows better than that.”
“He was pressured by Shaq to say things he doesn’t have to say,” Haslem added. “I didn’t sleep much after he said that. That was a couple of bulls***.”
PJ Tucker echoed Haslem’s feelings.
“It’s funny. We laughed. I thought it was funny,” Tucker said. “Because he knows better than anyone that we still have the game to play. We have to play.”
Tucker also gave some more thoughts to Haynes.
If the Heat really needed the extra motivation, that’s worrying. However, the Celtics may not feel particularly friendly towards Green, given his citation history. After all, it seems pretty clear that Green knew exactly what he was doing, and he got exactly what he wanted: The Warriors can stand the heat and even if they don’t, the Celtics have to play another day.
3. The most precious piece by a significant margin came with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Late in a tie, waiting for someone to take control, Jaylen Brown pulled a foul. However, Brown missed both free throws and Butler went all over the floor to score plus a foul. That five-point swing seemed to mean something to the Heat, who took over from then on.
Late in a close game, a five point swing can be the deciding factor.
“They responded to every time we made a run, every time we got close, every time we went up,” Brown said. “They made key baskets and timely shots and things like that. It’s almost like in a game like this, and they got it going, can’t leave room for mistakes, and we did, I did, we as a team , and the next game if we came out like that. We have to get better. That’s what it came down to. They played a great game. They made some crazy shots. But we have to defend great again and force them to get a few more of those shots to make.”
4. A major bright spot for the Celtics: Derrick White continues to emerge as a consistent, productive collaborator. On Friday, White had his biggest game with the Celtics to date – 22 points (his highest total in Boston) along with five assists. He even knocked out four of his seven 3-point attempts.
If White makes three-pointers while the Jays are rolling, the Celtics are essentially unguarded. Even if he doesn’t, he just doesn’t seem to make many mistakes. There is a lot to be said for that for a role player.
5. Celtics fans, remember: take three deep breaths through your nose. The team isn’t panicking yet, and neither are you.
“Scale from 1 to 10? 10′, Jayson Tatum said when asked about his confidence the Celtics would win Game 7. “I mean, it can’t be less than that, right? You know, it’s the last game. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a 10 out of 10 for my confidence and the group.
“It’s no secret. It’s Game 7, journey to the NBA Finals, there’s a lot at stake. A few of us have been in this situation before, so we know what’s at stake. We know how much this means to everyone.”
Game 7 tips Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
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