Gameday Rundown: HEAT vs. Celtics Game 6

Miami HEAT vs. Boston Celtics

Friday, May 27 @ 8:30 PM

Series Record: 3-2 Boston

Location:TD Garden, Boston, MA

Tipoff: 8:45 PM

Radio:WAXY 790 AM/WRTO 98.3 FM

Injury Updates: Tyler Herro, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Left Groin; Strain) - Kyle Lowry, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Hamstring Strain) - P.J. Tucker, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Left Knee; Irritation) - Max Strus, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Right Hamstring) - Gabe Vincent, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Left Hamstring; Strain); Boston: Marcus Smart, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Right Ankle; Sprain) - Sam Hauser, Out, Injury/Illness (Right Shoulder; Instability Episode) - Robert Williams, Questionable, Injury/Illness (Left Knee Soreness)

Series Notes:

  • The HEAT and Celtics met three times this regular season with Boston winning the series, 2-1.
  • The HEAT are 51-78 all-time versus Boston during the regular season, including 29-37 in home games and 22-41 in road games.
  • It marks the third time Miami will face Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals (2012, 2020, 2022), with the HEAT winning the previous two meetings. Additionally, it is the fourth time overall that the HEAT and Celtics will meet in the postseason after also facing each other in the 2010 First Round.

The Series So Far:

  • Game 1: If one thing was clear headed into a series against a team that forces you into a metric ton of isolations and often only allows paint attacks by sheer brute force, it was that Jimmy Butler was once again going to have to be magnificent. One game in and 41 points later, we can check that box. It wasn’t just that Butler made his shots, which he did (12-of-19), or that he got to the free-throw line (17-of-18), which he did. It was that he was everywhere, on either end, and always exactly where his team needed him. He wasn’t alone in doing so, but there’s a level of pressure that Butler can apply to your offense that makes every pass carry just a little more inherent risk to it – an effect that played a major role as the HEAT’s defense fed their offense over and over and over again in the third quarter. And as usual – after Boston made a run with Butler off the court – he was there to bring it home down the stretch as he hunted the Payton Pritchard matchup relentlessly, holding the Celtics off with free-throws and jumpers. Boston isn’t going to give up anything easy, so the HEAT are going to need Butler to keep earning, or saving, points the hard way. Both teams are going to come out of this one with plenty to like – Boston wound up winning three of the four quarters – and if you came into this game expecting a long series there wasn’t much on hand to dissuade you of that notion. Full Recap

  • Game 2: For a few minutes, everything looked fine. Max Strus was getting open, shots were falling, and the HEAT were up 15-8. It wasn’t exactly the third quarter of Game 1, but there was nothing worth being too concerned about. Miami, for the moment, looked like they were operating as usual. Then, everything flipped. Four minutes into the second quarter, the score was 47-28. Just as quick as Game 1 turned after the break when the HEAT rediscovered their own identity playing physical and precise defense and letting that effort power their offense, this time Boston was the team finding itself. Their switching flattened the HEAT out, their lights-out shooting (20-of-40 from three) and paint attacks kept the HEAT playing in the halfcourt, and the visitors were the more physical, more disciplined team. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart all topped 24 points, with only Jimmy Butler topping 20 on the HEAT’s side, but they won with the same feedback loop – offense setting up the defense feeding the offense – that the HEAT used to win the opening stanza. Boston was up by as much as they were up – 34 at the largest lead, but consistently over after their major runs – because they were hitting just about everything. But that wasn’t why they won. The Celtics outplayed the HEAT in this one, winning 127-102. Better process and better results is a deadly combination. The disparity in three-point shooting, with the Celtics outscoring Miami by 30 from the arc, is a story but not the story.Full Recap

  • Game 3: There aren’t many sounds in the world quite like that of a rowdy home playoff crowd immediately being silenced by the road team going on a dominant early run. What the HEAT did to start this game wasn’t quite what LeBron James did in Boston in Game 6 all those years ago, but it wasn’t too far off. In winning the opening period, 39-18, the HEAT had just about as immaculate a start to a postseason game as you can possibly have. With Kyle Lowry back, his effect on the pace of the offense, both in the open floor and in the halfcourt, was immediately evident as he pushed into a trail three for Max Strus and followed that up a few possessions later with his traditional hit-ahead pass to Jimmy Butler. But apart from Lowry and some hot three-point shooting, the real boost to the offense was Bam Adebayo scoring about as well as he has ever scored. Adebayo started 5-of-6 from the field, 8-of-12 in the first half, and his aggression had Boston’s defense noticeably off balance. All told. Boston’s Defensive Rating of 131.9 was the second-worst they’ve surrendered since Christmas. It would be tough for the HEAT, or any team, to score much better than that. And in the end, that opening salvo offered a large enough lead to put Miami up 2-1 in the series. The Celtics made their expected comeback, and then some. It just wasn’t quite enough. The HEAT ramped up the physicality on defense, found just enough shotmaking – Max Strus and Adebayo each hit a massive jumper after Boston closed to within one – and responded to one momentum-building one after another. A huge portion of the game was decided by the HEAT winning the turnover battle, 23-8, and taking 22 more shots than their opponent, but this was a battle of the mind more than anything. Everything this team has always said they were, they were Saturday night.Full Recap

  • Game 4: Typically, when you think of a meeting between two great defensive teams in the postseason you think of slowdown, grind-it-out battles that end somewhere in the vicinity of 92-87. Typically, that’s the case. But not in this bizarro series. Instead what we’re getting is a series where both defenses have indeed been great, but each game has seen one team lead by at least 20 – Boston’s near-comeback in Game 3 was the only real pushback we’ve seen from a big hole – because as soon as one defense gets rolling then the other team starts to struggle even more having to attack in the halfcourt, and the more that team misses the more the other side can try to push the pace. In other words, precisely because the defense is so good and both teams have some inherent struggles in the halfcourt, we’re more likely than usual to see one run get extended as the other side is pushed more and more onto their heels. It’s all a recipe for blowout city. The good news is that after this 102-82 loss, a night where Miami’s starters combined for 18 points – you read that right – everything resets and the HEAT get their chance to be the aggressor again. Splitting the road trip against a very good team is never a bad thing, no matter how bad the loss looked, and now a HEAT team that has shown plenty of resiliency get a best-of-three with homecourt advantage. Expecting a short series was folly.Full Recap

  • Game 5: This didn’t feel like a Game 5. It didn’t feel like a Game 6 or a Game 7. This felt like a Game 11. Everyone looked tired. Everyone looked hurt. Nobody could shoot. Any points, in any fashion, felt absolutely massive. There was beauty in what was happening, if you looked closely enough, but it was covered in about ten tons of mud and much and slime. Normally, that’s where the HEAT are more than happy to live. They want to turn it into a defensive battle. They want to make you uncomfortable. They want to make you earn any inch. But the harsh reality of this series, now 3-2 Boston heading back north, is that Boston is just as happy to play that game, too. And through five games they’ve been beating the HEAT by their own design. It was a game, for a time. Miami led by five at the break and Boston wasn’t exactly in any sort of offensive flow. Then the third quarter hit, 32-16 for the visitors, and there wasn’t a thing the home team could get going with the ball. There isn’t much more to say about this one. Boston won ugly, and they found their offense before the Miami could with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combining for 47 on a night when the HEAT’s starters scored 42. It’s not over. Not hardly. It’s just a tough loss at home to shake off before taking on the task of forcing a Game 7 with a road win.Full Recap