NBA Playoffs: Jimmy Butler lifts Miami Heat to season-saving Game 6 victory
Boston, Massachusetts - Jimmy Butler played the game of his life to lift the Miami Heat to a 111-103 win away from home against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.
The win keeps the Heat's season alive, tying the series at 3-3, with Game 7 heading back to Miami on Sunday.
Butler had complete control of the game throughout, scoring 21 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing six assists – and that was just in the first half, single-handedly carrying the Heat to a 48-46 lead at the long break.
He went on to finish with a playoff career high of 47 points on 16-of-29 shooting (four-of-eight from three, 11-of-11 free throws) with nine rebounds, eight assists, and four steals – scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter – as he played 46 minutes, including the entire second half.
Butler was the driving force for the Heat, but they shot the ball well as a team, hitting 15-of-35 three-pointers (42%) as Kyle Lowry and Max Strus hit big shots when they were needed, combining for seven made threes.
Lowry, after a combined 14 points and eight assists in the three contests prior to Game 6 he was healthy for, scored 18 points (five-of-14 from the field, four-of-nine from deep) and dished 10 assists, while Max Strus hit three-of-eight from long range for his 12 points.
Celtics can't keep up
Jayson Tatum finished with a strong stat-line, scoring 30 points with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, but he had seven turnovers, only attempted 12 field goals (nine-of-12), and only scored one field goal in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were desperate for their superstar to impose his will.
Derrick White was arguably the Celtics' best performer, scoring 22 points (seven-of-14 shooting, four-of-seven from three) with five assists and three steals off the bench.
Jaylen Brown was also solid, scoring 20 (six-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
Ultimately, the game will be remembered as Butler's greatest performance, attempting more field goals than Brown and Tatum combined. He had the best defense in the NBA entirely focused on him and delivered efficiently from all areas while the lights shined their brightest.
With his Game 6 showing, he became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988 to have multiple games in a playoff series with at least 40 points and four steals.
Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS