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    Celtics’ Derrick White wins Game 6 at buzzer: How Boston forced a Game 7 vs. Heat in Eastern Conference finals

    MIAMI — The Boston Celtics are on the verge of accomplishing something never before seen in the NBA, a feat that is extremely rare in the history of major American pro sports.

    Behind a stunning Derrick White put-back just before the buzzer sounded, the Boston Celtics won Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals 104-103, over the Miami Heat.

    The Celtics have come back to tie this series at 3-3 after losing the first three games and can become the first team in NBA history to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0.

    One hundred and fifty have tried and failed.

    “Faith, love, togetherness, physicality, belief, hope, all those things combined,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said when asked how the Celtics made it this far. “But it starts with the locker room. Those guys had a choice to make and they chose to believe in each other.”

    Only five teams combined in the NHL and MLB, including in 2004, when the Red Sox did it to the Yankees to get to the World Series, have won a Game 7 after trailing by three in a series.

    Historically, Miami is not the Celtics’ chief rival (hello there, Lakers), but the Heat and Boston have faced each other three times in the last four seasons in the conference finals. And for the second year in a row, a Celtics-Heat conference finals is headed to a Game 7.

    “This is the way this season has been,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team is still trying to become the second team to reach a finals as the No. 8 seed. “This is one hell of a series. At this time right now, I don’t know how we are going to get this done, but we are going up there and get it done. And that’s what the next 48 hours is about.”

    No matter what happens in Game 7, which is at 8:30 Monday night at TD Garden, no one on either side will soon forget this series.

    Jimmy Butler made three foul shots with three seconds left to give the Heat a 103-102 lead. Marcus Smart missed a 3-pointer after the timeout, but White, who was the inbounder on the play, scooted down the left side of the court while Smart’s shot was airborne, rebounded it after it hit the rim and put it back with 0.1 seconds remaining — a play that withstood an officials’ video review.

    “It all happened so fast — I couldn’t really tell,” Jaylen Brown said. “I know Smart shot it, and I thought it was good. Then Derrick White, like a flash of lightning, just came out of nowhere and saved the day, man. It was just an incredible play.”

    “It don’t do no good to stand in the corner there, whether he makes it or not, so I just was crashing the glass, and it came right to me,” White said. “It’s going to be a little crazy. My phone is already blowing up.”

    Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 31 points and 12 rebounds, including 25 points in the first half. Brown added 26 points and 10 boards, and Smart was brilliant for the second consecutive game with 21 points.

    White, who was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4, scored 11. The Celtics haven’t lost since White joined the other starters.

    Boston was playing without reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who missed the game with a right forearm strain.

    Butler suffered one of the worst shooting games he’s ever had — in the regular season or playoffs — missing 16 of the 21 shots he took. But he scored 13 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, including the Heat’s last 10 points over the game’s final 2:04. Miami was down 10 with 3:51 to go.

    Al Horford fouled Butler in the corner with 3.0 on the clock, and as Butler calmly sank all three foul shots, it looked as though he had found the sweetest redemption, for it was he who missed the wide-open 3 near the end of Game 7 in last year’s Eastern finals against the Celtics that could have won that game.

    Instead, it was the bitterest of defeats.

    “Basketball at its finest,” Butler said. “We’re going to get the same test until we pass it.”

    Caleb Martin continued his historic conference finals with 21 points and 15 boards. Making his first start of the series — Spoelstra swapped Martin in for Kevin Love — Martin entered play averaging 17.6 points off the bench in this series for the fifth-highest average by a reserve in conference finals history.

    Bam Adebayo continued to struggle on offense, shooting 4 of 16 for 11 points. The Heat were an astounding 33-of-93 shooting as a team, in a home game. The Celtics couldn’t run away with the game, though, in part because of their 7 of 35 from 3-point range. Tatum and Brown were 0 of 12 from deep.

    Boston joins the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers, the 1994 Denver Nuggets and the 1951 New York Knicks as the only NBA teams to be down 3-0 and even force a Game 7. Obviously, all those teams lost, but they all played Game 7 on the road.

    The Celtics, who are now 5-0 in elimination games this postseason, have played more Game 7s (by far) than any other franchise, and in the Tatum-Brown era, they are 5-1 in Game 7s dating to 2018.

    And they’ll be at home. With a chance to write a piece of American history.

    “It doesn’t get too much worse than being down 0-3,” Brown said. “We feel like we’ve been to hell and back. We feel like we can face any adversity that gets thrown at us in the duration of the game or the duration of the season or in the postseason. It all means nothing if we don’t come out and give our best effort on our home floor on Monday night.”

    A crazy ending to Game 6

    What a stressful, urgent, desperate game. The Celtics led by double digits in each half. The Heat scrapped their way back each time, even while shooting 35.5 percent from the field for the game. The action felt like a Game 7, with both teams knowing the entire season could be on the line.

    For the Celtics, their season actually was. And they chose the most interesting way to extend it. They lost all of a double-digit lead late in the fourth quarter.

    After Mazzulla’s replay review gave Butler a chance to put Miami ahead, not just tie the game, White put back that Smart miss at the buzzer to force a Game 7.

    That ending could not have been crazier. — King

    White saves the Celtics

    The Celtics completely fumbled away a crowning win to save their season, then somehow White saved them. White always finds a way to be in the right place at the right time while making the play quicker than anyone can.

    Most of the time there is suspense when a put-back goes up just before the buzzer, but you knew right away White was gonna get it off in time. He just sneaks into every crevice of the game to make timely plays and he literally rescued the Celtics season from the dead. — Weiss

    Unbelievable Heat comeback not enough

    Miami absolutely could be moving onto the NBA Finals by now. We’ll see if the way they played over the last three minutes will jolt them heading into Game 7.

    Up until that point, though, Butler and Adebayo were pretty poor. They shot a combined 9 of 37 from the field. Butler appeared tentative, with a flat shot, and Adebayo was catching the ball so far away from the rim that he couldn’t get around Al Horford.

    Shooting 33 of 93 from the field, at home, in an elimination game, is astounding. But it happened, and now the Heat will have to stop this avalanche coming from on high, on the road. — Vardon

    Highlight of the game

    Required reading

    (Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)



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