The Miami Heat didn’t want it to end, and certainly not in a sea of green.
Specifically, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry didn’t want this to end, even when it looked like their bodies were making the most of their 30s.
So do Game 7 Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at FTX Arena to settle those Eastern Conference Finals.
Avoiding elimination with a 111-103 win on Friday night, the Heat, like the Celtics, are now one win away from an NBA Finals appearance against the Golden State Warriors.
Much like when LeBron James scored 45 points a decade earlier in a needed win when the Heat entered the TD Garden down 3-2 in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Butler carried his game to a higher level, closing with 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. , following previous struggles with knee pain.
Butler said a text message from friend and Heat icon Dwyane Wade provided further inspiration.
Pushing through a hamstring strain, Lowry added 18 points and 10 assists, before committing a foul with 2:18 left in a 99-99 tie.
Guard Max Strus also stepped up, with 13 points, on a night when the Heat’s bench was limited, with sixth man Tyler Herro sidelined for a third straight game with a sprained groin.
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 took a 13-point lead in the third quarter, the biggest lead of the game at this point, and took an 82-75 advantage in the fourth.
But the Celtics kept coming, tying on a 3-pointer Al Horford with 5:31 left and moving to a 97-94 lead over a 3-pointer Derrick White with 4:42 to go.
A 3-point Lowry followed to tie, with a pair of free throws from Lowry, then putting the Heat up 99-97.
But after the Celtics tied it 99-99 on a pair of free throws from Marcus Smart, Butler drove for a lay-up and one and a 102-99 Heat lead with 2:06 remaining. Heat forward PJ Tucker followed that up with three free throws to take the lead 105-99 with 1:25 left.
A second-chance layup from Tatum cut the lead to 105-101 with 71 seconds remaining.
But then, as the shot clock expired, on an inbound play with 2.2 seconds left on the 24-second shot clock, Butler drained a 20-foot jumper for a 107-101 lead in the Heat.
Two free throws from Tatum with 40 seconds remaining cut the Heat’s lead to 107-103.
The video review then reversed a blocking foul on the Heat’s Bam Adebayo into a charge from Brown with 12.1 seconds left, ending it.
2. Find a way: Butler showed more lift than any of the previous three games, up to 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists at halftime when the Heat led 48-46.
That effort included a 3-for-3 start from the 3-point line, followed by another 3-pointer later.
It wasn’t exactly Butler at full contact early on, only reaching the foul line with 6:49 remaining in the second period, but it grew into something much more than the Butler who only reached the line than for six free throws the previous three. Games.
3. Lowry, Strus also: After the Heat’s starting backcourt went 0 for 15 in Game 5, Lowry and Strus had raises.
After going Game 5 with no points or turnovers, Lowry was back to himself, both with his game and his score.
Limited by hamstring strain for most of this postseason, Lowry showed much more mobility, which also helped his shot lift, closing 4 of 9 on 3-point range.
Strus, who had shot 0 for 16 in the previous two games, found both his 3-point shooting and his aggression, up to 13 points before the fourth.
At one point in the third quarter, Strus reacted with such emotion after a 3-pointer that he spat out his mouthpiece in his exuberance.
Strus closed 3 of 8 on 3 points.
4. Fresh start: The Heat addressed many of their Game 5 ills early.
After shooting 7 of 45 from 3-point range Wednesday night, they closed the first quarter 5 of 8.
Lowry had five points and two assists in that first period.
And after scoring 13 points in Game 5, Butler scored 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 couldn’t risk Herro’s groin strain even with the stakes in place.
“These are not easy conversations or decisions,” Spoelstra said 90 minutes before the whistleblower. “He’s definitely made some progress, but he’s not quite ready, you know, to get into that kind of match intensity.”
Spoelstra declined to say whether Herro’s injury would have been measured in days instead of weeks had it been the regular season.
“I think it’s not relevant to go into all the details,” he said. “He’s not able to play tonight, you know. As bad as he wants to come out, you know, that’s the most responsible decision for us.