The Miami Heat did not want it to end, and certainly not in a sea of green.
More to the point, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry did not want it to end, even when it seemed their bodies were getting the best of their 30-something selves.
So make it a Game 7 Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at FTX Arena to settle these Eastern Conference finals.
Staving off elimination with a 111-103 victory Friday night, the Heat, like the Celtics, are now one victory from an appearance in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
Much like when LeBron James scored 45 a decade earlier in a needed victory when the Heat entered TD Garden down 3-2 in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, Butler took his game to a higher level, closing with 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, in the wake of previous struggles with knee pain.
Butler said a text message from friend and Heat icon Dwyane Wade provided additional inspiration.
Pushing through a hamstring strain, Lowry added 18 points and 10 assists, before fouling out with 2:18 to play in a 99-99 tie.
Also stepping up was guard Max Strus, with 13 points, on a night the Heat bench was limited, with sixth man Tyler Herro sidelined for a third consecutive game due to a groin strain.
For the Celtics, there were 30 points from Jayson Tatum, 22 from Derrick White and 20 from Jaylen Brown.
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Closing time: Up two at halftime, the Heat moved to a 13-point lead in the third quarter, the game’s biggest lead to that stage, and took an 82-75 advantage into the fourth.
But the Celtics kept coming, tying it on an Al Horford 3-pointer with 5:31 to play and moving to a 97-94 lead on a Derrick White 3-pointer with 4:42 left.
A Lowry 3-pointer followed to tie it, with a pair of Lowry free throws then putting the Heat up 99-97.
But after the Celtics tied it 99-99 on a pair of Marcus Smart free throws, Butler drove for an and-one layup and 102-99 Heat lead with 2:06 left. Heat forward P.J. Tucker followed that up with three free throws to make the lead 105-99 with 1:25 to play.
A Tatum second-chance layup cut the lead to 105-101 with 71 seconds left.
But then, at the expiration of the shot clock, off an inbounds play with 2.2 seconds left on the 24-second clock, Butler drained a 20-foot jumper for a 107-101 Heat lead.
Two Tatum free throws with 40 seconds left cut the Heat lead to 107-103.
Video review then reversed a blocking foul on the Heat’s Bam Adebayo to a Brown charge with 12.1 seconds left, effectively ending it.
2. Finding a way: Butler showed more lift than any of the previous three games, up to 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists by halftime, when the Heat led 48-46.
Included in that effort was a 3-for-3 start from the 3-point line, with another 3-pointer following later.
It wasn’t exactly full-contact Butler early on, not getting to the foul line until 6:49 remained in the second period, but it became something far more than the Butler who got to the line for only six free throws the previous three games.
3. Lowry, Strus, too: After the Heat’s starting backcourt went 0 for 15 in Game 5, both Lowry and Strus had revivals.
After playing Game 5 without a point or a turnover, Lowry was back to his pesky self, both with his playmaking and his scoring.
Limited by a hamstring strain for most of this postseason, Lowry showed far more mobility, which also helped with the lift on his shot, closing 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Strus, who had shot 0 for 16 the previous two games, found both his 3-point shot and aggression, up to 13 points going into the fourth.
At one point in the third quarter, Strus reacted with such emotion after a 3-pointer that he spit out his mouthpiece in his exuberance.
Strus closed 3 of 8 on 3-pointers.
4. Fresh start: The Heat addressed several of their Game 5 ills early.
After shooting 7-of-45 on 3-pointers Wednesday night, they closed the first quarter 5 of 8.
Lowry had five points and two assists in that opening period.
And after scoring 13 points in Game 5, Butler had 14 in an opening period that ended with the Heat up 29-22
5. No Tyler Herro: Ultimately, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team could not risk Herro’s groin strain, even with the stakes that were in place.
“These are not easy conversations or decisions,” Spoelstra said 90 minutes before tipoff. “He’s definitely made progress, but he’s not quite ready, you know, to step into this kind of intensity of a game.”
Spoelstra declined to say whether Herro’s injury would have been measured in days instead of weeks had this been the regular season.
“I think it’s irrelevant to get into all the details,” he said. “He’s not able to play tonight, you know. As badly as he wants to get out there, you know, this is the most responsible decision for us.”
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