For Miami’s Kaseya Center, the slogan of the playoffs has been “White Hot Playoffs.” On Saturday night, the arena was decked out all in white with the Heat wearing those three words across their chest.
Little did they know how prophetic it would be.
With just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Jayson Tatum sank two free throws to put the Celtics up nine points at 100-91. The lead had yo-yo’d the entire game from double digits and as high as 13 in the third quarter to a two-possession game, but down the stretch, it seemed like Boston had finally put some distance between them and the Heat, and closer to a Game 7 at TD Garden on Monday night.
Then Jimmy Butler happened. In the final three minutes, he’d score 10 of Miami’s final twelve points, including a step back three, an and-1, and several free throws, including three in the clutch to take the lead when Al Horford fouled him, leaving just three seconds left on the clock and potentially, the Celtics season.
“In all honesty, I’m in full prayer mode,” Jaylen Brown said of the Heat’s comeback.
On the verge of a Finals berth, Erik Spoelstra decided to keep the ball away from Jayson Tatum. Tatum finished with 31 points and had gone to the line fifteen times. They weren’t going to let him beat them.
“Really, just trying to get to a spot where we can take one or two dribbles and get a shot,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said of his final play call. “They did a good job with denying with the inbounder. That’s always a hard read.”
It ended up being Marcus Smart with the final heave of the Game 6.
“Smart flashed, hit him, and there was really nobody on me,” Derrick White said. “I just spaced to the corner and when he shot it, just tried to crash. Ball came to me and I made the shot.”
Obviously, White’s humble nature downplays the biggest play of the team’s postseason so far. The Celtics become the first team in NBA history to force a Game 7 on their home floor with his tip-in.
“Derrick White, like a flash of lightning, just came out of nowhere and saved the day, man,” Brown said. “It was just an incredible play.”
“That felt like the longest ten seconds ever, waiting for the confirmation if he made it or not. I’m still in disbelief. That s%$# was crazy,” Tatum said.
White finished the game with 11 points, four rebounds, and six assists, none more important than the offensive rebound and putback to beat the buzzer. However, it might have been his defense that really pushed the Celtics to win Game 6. According to ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry, Miami was 1-for-12 on shots he contested, including Butler’s 0-for-6 with White as his primary defender.
“My phone’s already blowing up, but I get home tomorrow and I’ll play with Hendrix,” White said of his heroics. “I’m sure he won’t look at me any differently, so that’ll be cool.”