MIAMI (AP) — Derrick White scored on a putback with 0.1 seconds left and the Boston Celtics were poised for the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history by fending off the Miami Heat 104-103 on Saturday night and such a Game 7 forced Eastern Conference Finals.
Jayson Tatum scored 31 points, Jaylen Brown 26 and Marcus Smart added 21 for the Celtics, who became only the fourth NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series and force a decider . The others at that club — the 1951 New York Knicks in the NBA Finals, the 1994 Denver Nuggets in the second round, and the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers in the first round — all lost Game 7, all away.
However, Boston goes home for its chance at history. Game 7 takes place on Monday night on the Celtics floor, a match that will decide who meets the Western Conference champions, the Denver Nuggets, in a title series that begins Thursday.
Jimmy Butler made three free throws with 3.0 seconds left to secure a point advantage in the heat. Smart missed a three, but White grabbed the rebound and scored after time was up.
Butler scored 24 points and Caleb Martin 21 for the Heat, who are trying to carve their own unlikely path into the title series by finishing second at No. 8 to the NBA Finals. They’ve now lost as many games this week — three — as they did in their first 14 playoff games this spring combined, en route to ousting No. 1 Milwaukee, then No. 5 New York, and clinching a seemingly insurmountable victory to secure a 3-0 lead over second-seeded Celtics.
The Celtics have now won five of their last six East Finals games in Miami – a stretch that last season included a Game 7 over the Heat to reach the NBA Finals.
That obviously ended the Heat season. At least this time, Miami still has a chance.
The Heat became the 151st team to hold a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven. All 150 of the previous clubs completed the job. But the Celtics have made it very clear that they have other ideas.
Celtics: The Celtics are 5-0 away from elimination this season, 3-0 away. They beat Philadelphia twice en route to crushing a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Finals and have now drawn that series. … Malcolm Brogdon (right forearm strain) was downgraded to a miss about an hour before the game started.
Heat: Diddy was at the game, as was former heat guard Goran Dragic and Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk. … Barring Miami winning Game 7 in Boston, it might have been the last home game in Heat forward Udonis Haslem’s 20-year career. The Heat have a 613-297 record in 910 games at their home arena with Haslem in their roster; this does not include the home games of the restart bubble in 2020.
The Celtics are 27-9 in Game 7 and have won their last four games – including one in Miami last season and one earlier this season, beating Philadelphia in the East semifinals. They’re tied 1-1 against the all-time Heat in those games (they lost the decider of the 2012 East Finals in Miami) and 22-5 at home in Game 7.
The Heat are 6-5 all-time in Game 7, have lost their last two (home to Boston in 2022, Toronto in 2016) and are 2-0 away in such a game. In addition to the Raptors’ game seven years ago, they also lost Game 7 in Atlanta in 2009.
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETELY SUCCESSFUL
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra capitalized on a challenge early in the third quarter after Martin was called for a foul on a play Brown scored. Miami claimed Brown got Martin hooked; The umpires, after checking, said there was no foul on Martin, but still counted the basket and the Heat lost their score.