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Kyle Lowry listened politely while Jimmy Butler shared the credit for Miami’s Game 6 win until his fellow All-Star took the humility too far, calling his 47-point effort avoiding elimination a “decent.”
“It’s (expletively) incredible,” corrected Lowry, apologizing to the TV cameras in the back of the room for his language and asking not to be fined by the league. “It’s incredible to have a guy like him next to me. I’ve played with some great players and he’s one of the best.”
Butler scored 47 points — a career playoff high and one of the best performances by a player facing elimination in NBA history — and the Heat forced the Eastern Conference Finals into a crucial game seven by defeating Friday night’s Defeated Boston Celtics 111-103.
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Ten years after LeBron James scored 45 points in a Game 6 in Boston en route to the Heat’s first consecutive NBA title, Butler scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to top him and send the streak back to Miami.
A home win would see the Heat reach the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
“That’s the way it should be with these two teams. It should have lasted seven games,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “I’m just thrilled that our group is getting the opportunity to play Game 7 in front of a home crowd.”
The winner of Sunday’s Game 7 advances to the NBA Finals against Golden State, which eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in five games Thursday night. Warriors forward Draymond Green said afterwards that he expected to play the Celtics.
In the game with the most back-and-forth of the series, Boston took a 97-94 lead against Derrick White’s 3-pointers with less than five minutes left – the first time in the entire series that the lead changed hands in the fourth quarter . Lowry responded with a 3 and then added two free throws as Miami scored 11 of the next 13 points.
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Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists before fouling with 2:18 left. Butler made 16 of 29 shots – including 4 of 8 from 3-point range – and all 11 free throws.
“He jumped out and kind of made his mark on the game,” said White. “That’s exactly what 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 and scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Celtics are attempting 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 equalized by the Lakers became.
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“It’s no secret: It’s Game 7, the journey to the NBA Finals, the stakes are high,” Tatum said. “We know what is at stake. We know how much this means for everyone.”
Jaylen Brown scored 20 points for Boston and missed two free throws, tying the game at 99 after Lowry fouled. Brown fouled himself on an attacking offense after a challenge on a missed dunk with 13 seconds left and the Celtics down by four.