No game is ever a certainty in the NBA, but the Boston Celtics should have felt confident heading into Game 6 at the TD Garden.
They had momentum on their side – they’d just won their second consecutive game over the Miami Heat, including Game 5 in South Beach, and their opponent was hobbled and hampered.
Miami’s starters had struggled in Game 5 scoring just 42 points combined.
Point guard Kyle Lowry had zero points in that game. Plus, Jimmy Butler’s seemed to be on the decline after a strong start in the first two games in Miami.
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And prior to Game 6 the Heat’s Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro was officially ruled out with a groin issue.
However, led by Butler’s 47 points the Heat found a way to win and force a deciding Game 7 back on their home floor.
What are the three keys to Game 7?
What has Jimmy Butler got left in the tank?
Yes, Jimmy has been hampered by knee soreness the past four games, but in Game 6 he almost single-handedly willed his team to victory. It was a game that was strikingly similar to another Game 6 performance by a Heat player in Boston about, oh, let’s say ten years ago.
‘I get it, people can easily draw the comparisons between the two,” Spoelstra said about Butler’s comparison to LeBron James. ”That’s a different era. That’s a different team. I want our guys to embrace this moment.”
The truth of the matter is, though, the Heat go as Jimmy goes.
Take a look at Butler’s numbers this series.
- Game 1: 41 points, 12-19 FG, 17-18 FT
- Game 2: 29 points, 11-18 FG, 6-8 FT
- Game 3: 8 points, 3-8 FG, 2-2 FT (didn’t play in the second half)
- Game 4: 6 points, 3-14 FG, 0-0 FT
- Game 5: 13 points, 4-18 FG, 4-4 FT
- Game 6: 47 points, 16-29 FG, 11-11 FT
When Butler is locked in, the Heat automatically becomes a better team. Butler’s 47 points were the seventh-most in NBA history for a player facing elimination.
“My team, they got so much belief in me, my coaches got so much belief in me,” Butler said postgame. “They give me that confidence to go out there and play basketball the right way and just hoop.
Does he have enough left in the tank to put up another big performance in Game 7?
Some people might think he doesn’t have another 47-point effort left in him, but Butler does thrive best when he feels like he’s been underestimated or overlooked.
That’s a dangerous scenario for the Celtics.
Can Miami’s starters contribute again?
As we mentioned earlier, in Game 5, the Heat’s starters scored a combined 42 points. This followed a horrendous Game 4 in which they totaled just 18 points.
In Game 6, they had 95.
Lowry had himself a great bounce-back game, looking more like the championship point guard that he is than the guy who went scoreless in Game 5. He finished with 18 points and 10 assists, hitting some key shots along the way.
Herro’s status is unclear for the deciding game, so the Heat will need whatever contribution they can get from their starting core.
Bam Adebayo had another quiet offensive game on Friday night scoring just 12 points. The one game he had an offensive breakthrough in was Game 3 in which he scored 31 points. It also happened to be the one game that the “Time Lord” Robert Williams III didn’t play in.
If Bam can contribute on the offensive end too, it could be lights out for Boston.
Can Boston win on the road again?
So far this series the road team has won four times.
The two teams split the first four games before Boston took back home-court advantage by winning Game 5 in comfortable fashion in Miami.
The Celtics have a 6-2 record on the road this postseason including crucial close-out wins against Brooklyn and a huge Game 6 win at Fiserv Forum against Milwaukee in the second round.
It’s not going to be easy, but Boston will have to find a way to win one more on the road.
They will need Tatum to lead them. He’s scored 194 points combined in those six road wins for an average of 32.3 points per game.
He’s proven he’s not shy of the big moment.
Can he do it yet again?
When is Game 7 of Celtics vs. Heat?
Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Heat will tip off around 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 27 from FTX Arena in Miami, Florida.
The game is airing on ESPN and Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson will be on the call. ESPN’s Lisa Salters will be the broadcast’s sideline reporter.
Here is the schedule and results for the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals.
|Date||Game||Time (ET) / Result||TV channel|
|May 17||Game 1||Heat 118, Celtics 107||ESPN|
|May 19||Game 2||Celtics 127, Heat 102||ESPN|
|May 21||Game 3||Heat 109, Celtics 103||ABC|
|May 23||Game 4||Celtics 102, Heat 82||ABC|
|May 25||Game 5||Celtics 93, Heat 80||ESPN|
|May 27||Game 6||Heat 111, Celtics 103||ESPN|
|May 29||Game 7||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|