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Three down, one to go: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Heat Game 6

Boston evened the series at 3-3 to bring it back to TD Garden for Game 7

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Eric Espada/NBAE via Getty Images

1. Wow.

It’s been roughly 11 hours and, just, wow.

If the Boston Celtics pull off the 0-3 comeback against the Miami Heat, Game 6 will live in memories forever.

Derrick White’s buzzer-beating tip-in capped off a wild finish that has seen Boston come back from the brink to even the Eastern Conference Finals at 3-3.

Win one to play one more. The Celtics have done it one game at a time. And now we’re here.

Here’s how the Celtics got the series heading back to Boston for Game 7.

2. Derrick White saved his best for last, but he did a lot of good stuff earlier too. This was a nice combination of White’s heads-up defense, followed by a good find to Al Horford:

White’s defense on Jimmy Butler has been in focus all series long. In the first few games, Butler was getting what he wanted. White has made it a lot harder on him as the series has gone along. This kind of play is becoming somewhat commonplace from White:

Late in the game, White wasn’t afraid of the moment. This is a confident pull when the Heat didn’t navigate the screen:

And, of course, White did this to keep the Celtics season alive:

It’s just a perfect read after making the inbounds pass. Miami sold out to keep the ball from Jayson Tatum, so White passed and immediately crashed the boards. Boston lives to fight another day.

3. Jaylen Brown was on fire early. It was one of the best examples of “First Quarter JB” that we’ve seen in a while. Foul trouble seemed to take him out of his rhythm as the game went along, but Brown got Boston going.

When Brown gets an easy one early, it’s usually a good sign. He went coast-to-coast for this layup to open the scoring:

The midrange pullup is one of Brown’s best weapons. This is a gorgeous shot after a dribble series:

When Brown draws a smaller defender, he’s happy to rise and fire over them:

When Brown draws a bigger defender, he’ll either drive them or set them up for the pullup. This was a couple of nice jab steps into a one-dribble pullup here:

4. Jayson Tatum took over during a stretch in the second quarter. From the 9:18 mark of the second quarter to the 3:41 mark, Tatum scored or set up 16 straight points for the Celtics.

Two dribbles from the mid-post area and right to the elbow fadeaway:

Again, Tatum went to work in the mid-post area. After fighting for position, this is a pretty turnaround over Jimmy Butler:

In transition, Tatum went by and finished over Butler:

After forcing the steal, Tatum did a good job here of not settling. He could have taken the contested jumper, but he blew by Bam Adebayo for a layup instead:

5. Marcus Smart made several big plays throughout the game. He was a calming influence for the Celtics too. When they needed a bucket, they played through Smart several times.

Getting Smart on the block always seems to result in something positive for Boston:

Smart made good use of his pump fakes in this one. Jayson Tatum does a nice job reading the defense. Then, Smart stays composed, get the fly-by, and drains the jumper:

A little later, it was the same thing off this nice cross-court find from Grant Williams:

This is a really nice set. Boston caught Jimmy Butler trailing and ball-watching here, as Tatum slipped through the backdoor off the nice pass from Smart:

6. Al Horford’s stat-line belies his importance to the game. Yes, he committed a couple of fouls late, but that’s the wrong focus.

Horford made big plays throughout the game when Boston needed them. This is good stuff from the almost 37-year-old:

And this recovery block was huge for Horford and the Celtics:

7. Rob Williams was big off Boston’s bench once again. His energy and athleticism just change the game when he gets in.

Williams’ timing and read of offensive rebounds are off the charts:

This was one of those ROB! plays where you are left wondering how it even happened:

Williams is also starting to develop a good amount of patience when he catches it inside. It’s not always the hot-potato pass or him immediately going right up. Sometimes he settles himself and draws the and-1:

8. In part because or Al Horford and Rob Williams, the Celtics interior defense was dominant in Game 6. But the guards and wings had a lot to do with that too. Nothing was easy for the Heat all game.

Miami shot 19-of-63, or 30.2% on two-point shots in Game 6. Included in that was 16-of-52 shooting on shots in the paint.

Boston was contesting everything. It ended up in fouls on some plays, but that’s the price of physical, aggressive defense.

9. To be balanced, despite our excitement…Boston has to be better to close these games.

The Celtics had a 10-point lead with 4:56 to play. That’s not much of a lead, with the way teams shoot threes these days. So, you have to keep playing and running offense.

As they tend to do, Boston played too slow. Miami sat in a 2-2-1 token press, then dropped back into their matchup 2-3 zone. It wasn’t that the Celtics didn’t realize it or didn’t attack it properly, they just took too long to get into their stuff.

Just keep pushing and keeping running stuff. Miami isn’t going to go away. They never do. You have to play a full 48 minutes, and you have to play the full 48 minutes your way.

10. Game 7. On Memorial Day, after fans will have been celebrating for two straight days.

Yeah, it’s going to be an all-time crowd in Game 7.

It’s up to the Celtics to use the crowd and that energy to lift them. The Heat look exhausted, and they might have emptied their tanks trying to win Game 6.

You can’t make history if there isn’t history to make.

It’s no longer about winning one to play one more.

Win one to play in the NBA Finals.

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