Reducing the result of an entire match to the performance of a single player is often a distortion of reality. It is not the case. Jimmy Butler took it upon himself this morning to save the match-ball of the Heat and forcing the seventh game of the Eastern Finals after leading the victory of his team at TD Garden by 103-111, signing a performance to remember practically from start to finish.
After three games in which, affected by physical discomfort, he had been far from his best version, the forward declared at a press conference that there was no excuse for his performance and that he had to be better in the Game 6. And if something was seen from the first minute, it was an irrepressible desire to be faithful to her word. Butler started the clash assuming prominence, looking for the ball and being aggressive to put his team in front, leaving a good feeling that did not disappear until the end.
Time after time, Jimmy found an answer for each attempt by the Celtics to gain control of the game, and based on infinite jugs of cold water to the Garden stands, he ended up reaching 47 points in a performance that will not take long to be compared. with that legendary Game 6 of LeBron James in the same circumstances and on the same stage. Butler, who rounded off his night with 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals, gave the Heat a masterclass of survival pulling all his offensive resources and punishing both from his penetrations and from the middle distance and triple. Not even the excellent local defense, which forced him to make extremely complex shots, could be an obstacle, since he was in charge of scoring a handful of impossible baskets, among which the shot that made it 101-107 with 43 seconds to go and left the duel seen for sentencing.
Kyle Lowry also made up for his recent poor performances, who with 18 points and 10 assists was Jimmy’s best squire and finally shone when Spoelstra’s men needed him most. Even with poor accuracy data (5/14 in shooting), the point guard was in charge of setting the pace of the match promoting the transitions of his own, being an absolute nuisance in defense putting hands and looking for fouls in attack, and scoring a pivotal triple in the fourth quarter just as Boston had taken the lead. Something similar happened with Max Strus, who had several completely unwise crashes but who recovered the success to act as a plunger in several vital possessions and, with 13 points, be the third visiting scorer.
However, just as important as the offensive success was Miami’s defensive aggressiveness, which dismantled the local attack in many sections and forced Udoka’s men to seek an excess of unproductive 1vs1. One of the victims of this situation was Jayson Tatum, who despite signing an excellent game and reaching 30 goals with a 75% success rate, ended up seeing himself completely closed by the visiting aids in the final stretch of the duel, in which he barely he was able to add or generate for his teammates. The forward actually finished with 7 turnovers, 4 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Jaylen Brown seemed destined to accompany him on a great night after leaving with 18 points at the break, but the truth is that the shooting guard ended up playing a very poor second half in which he made several crucial errors such as the two free throws he missed with the score tied with two minutes to go. His place as Tatum’s squire was occupied by Derrick White, who had 18 of his 22 points in the second half and helped the locals resist Miami’s rush in the third quarter, in which they threatened to break the game by placing 13 up .
Boston managed to recover that advantage and even take the lead, but the 6-17 run that closed the match prevented the Celtics from reaching the final seconds with options. Butler’s determination and the sacrifice of the team in defense personified in PJ Tucker earned Spoelstra’s team another day of life, as well as the opportunity to play at home for a place in the NBA Finals. On Sunday, both will face each other again and the East will have champion, and, hopefully for the spectators, it will happen after a battle like today.
(Cover photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)