MIAMI – Derrick White scored on a putback with 0.1 seconds left and the Boston Celtics moved to the brink of the greatest comeback in NBA playoffs history, holding off the Miami Heat 104-103 on Saturday night to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals.
Jayson Tatum scored 31 points, Jaylen Brown scored 26 and Marcus Smart added 21 for the Celtics, who became only the fourth NBA team to erase a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series and force a deciding game. The others in 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 on the road.
Boston, however, is going home for its shot at history. Game 7 is Monday night on the Celtics’ floor, a matchup that’ll decide who meets the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets in a title series that will start Thursday.
Jimmy Butler made three free throws with 3.0 seconds left for a one-point Heat lead. Smart missed a 3-pointer, but White grabbed the rebound and scored as time expired.
Butler scored 24 points and Caleb Martin had 21 for the Heat, who are trying to pull off their own improbable trek to the title series by being only the second No. 8 seed to make the NBA Finals. They’ve now lost as many games this week — three — as they had in their first 14 playoff games this spring combined on the way to ousting No. 1 Milwaukee, then No. 5 New York and taking what was supposed to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the second-seeded Celtics.
The Celtics have now won five of their last six East finals games in Miami — a stretch that includes a Game 7 over the Heat last season to reach the NBA Finals.
That one, obviously, ended the Heat season. At least this time, Miami still has a chance.
The Heat are the 151st team to grab a 3-0 series lead in a best-of-seven. All 150 of the previous clubs finished the job. But the Celtics have made very clear that they have other ideas.
Celtics: The Celtics are 5-0 when facing elimination this season, 3-0 on the road. They beat Philadelphia twice on their way to erasing a 3-2 lead in the East finals, and now have tied this series. … Malcolm Brogdon (right forearm strain) was downgraded to out about an hour before game time.
Heat: Diddy was at the game, as was former Heat guard Goran Dragic and Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk. … Unless Miami wins Game 7 at Boston, it may have been the final home game of Heat forward Udonis Haslem’s 20-year career. The Heat are 613-297 in the 910 games in their home arena with Haslem on the roster; that doesn’t include the restart bubble’s home games in 2020.
GAME 7 HISTORY
The Celtics are 27-9 in Game 7s, winners of their last four — including one in Miami last season and one earlier this season, against Philadelphia in the East semifinals. They’re 1-1 against the Heat all-time in such games (losing the 2012 East finals deciding game in Miami), and 22-5 at home in Game 7.
The Heat are 6-5 all-time in Game 7s, lost their last two (home vs. Boston in 2022, at Toronto in 2016), and are 0-2 when facing such a game on the road. Besides the Raptors game seven years ago, they lost a Game 7 at Atlanta in 2009.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used a challenge early in the third quarter, after Martin was called for a foul on a play where Brown scored. Miami claimed Brown hooked Martin; referees, after review, said there was no foul on Martin — but counted the basket anyway and the Heat lost their review.