The Miami Heat have missed out on qualifying for the NBA Finals for the third year in a row. Jimmy Butler turned up the heat late, but eventually took the loss on himself. Coach Erik Spoelstra defended his strategy in the last play.
“I already told the guys in the dressing room. If I had played better, we wouldn’t have been in this position in the first place,” Butler said of the dramatic 103:104 defeat in Game 6 after Derrick White’s siren the Celtics prevented.
The Celtics looked like the winners for a long time and were still leading by 9 points three minutes before the end. Miami needed a miracle and almost got it from Butler. For 44 minutes, almost nothing went for the 33-year-old (3/19 FG), who presented himself with little explosiveness and had huge problems at the end. The Celtics were not fooled by his pump fakes, instead Butler had to take difficult shots, tightly defended.
And then came the closing stages, in which Butler scored 13 of the last 15 points of the heat, turning an 88-98 into a 103-102. Jimmy Buckets attacked, took free throws, hit a three – but also missed two freebies, which later turned out to be costly. Nevertheless: Butler hit the most important free throw when he forced a foul in a three-pointer against Al Horford from a hopeless situation.
It was a last effort from Butler, who, with the exception of these last four minutes, does not get easy throws. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or White, they can all annoy Butler with their length, especially because Butler’s ankle injury from the Knicks series was no longer able to reach the level from the games against Milwaukee. Against the Celtics, the forward only hits 42 percent of the field – too little for his own standards.
Heat: Coach Spoelstra defends the last play
“I just don’t score, that has to change,” said Butler. “I have to stay aggressive and find my teammates. I have to keep being the leader because they follow me. If I keep calm, they will too. So I’ll keep smiling, go home now and play some cards. What Whatever is said, I don’t give a damn.”
If it wasn’t for White, Butler could have gambled longer, but Miami put everything on one card in the Celtics’ last play – and lost that bet. White took the throw-in with 3 seconds left while opponent Max Strus made every effort to ensure that Jayson Tatum was not allowed to take the last shot. That succeeded, instead Marcus Smart immediately took a difficult fadeaway threesome.
But since the guard pulled the trigger so quickly, there was still time for an offensive rebound and White was there again, who Strus couldn’t catch. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t blame his protégé for that. “Like everyone here, I’m absolutely shocked by this play,” said the two-time champion coach.
“Max did everything right. He made sure that Tatum didn’t get the ball. It was the only option that could have hurt us. We actually did it very well, but sometimes luck isn’t on your side . There’s nothing to regret, it’s just a shame.”
Heat vs. Celtics: The series at a glance
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