The NBA Finals berth is at stake as the Heat and Celtics prepare for Game 7


Shortly after Boston’s dramatic win in Miami on Saturday night, Jaylen Brown began thinking about the future. He raised his hands, raised seven fingers, and began shouting, “Game 7! Game 7!”

Game 7, actually.

Brown and Boston are on the sidelines after Derrick White’s crucial setback gave the Celtics a 104-103 win over the Heat in Game 6. One of the league’s most storied franchises is attempting to become the first team in NBA playoff history to break a 3-0 deficit and win a best-of-seven series.

Next up is another game in the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night in Boston. And it looks like the back-and-forth series may be heading for an epic conclusion.

The Celtics are the fourth NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit and force a decider in a best-of-seven series. The previous three teams — the 1951 New York Knicks in the NBA Finals, the 1994 Denver Nuggets in the second round, and the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers in the first round — lost Game 7, all away.

“We have another chance, another chance,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 31 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in Game 6 to become the only other Celtic, along with Larry Bird, with double-digit playoff games with at least 30 points. 10 rebounds and five assists. “It’s far from over. It’s still an uphill battle. But it always feels good to give yourself another chance, another chance.”

Boston is looking to continue its wild postseason, which already includes five victories in tournament eliminations – twice in the East semifinals after falling 3-2 against the 76ers and now three straight wins against the Heat.

The Celtics are 27-9 in Game 7 and have won their last four — including a 112-88 win over Philadelphia in the previous round that saw Tatum earn 51 points, the most in a Game 7 in NBA history. Boston also defeated the Heat in Game 7 in Miami in last year’s East Finals when Jimmy Butler missed a 3-point shot about 17 seconds from time that would have given the go-ahead.

The Heat are 6-5 all time in Game 7 and have lost their last two. Miami is 0-2 in such an away game.

The winner of Sunday’s game will face Western Conference winners Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

Despite failing to refuse a place in the finals in three straight games, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said his message to the team after Saturday’s defeat was to simply focus on the next game. Let the past be past.

“Let’s just stick together,” Spoelstra said. “These are emotional games and there may be changes in Game 7. Pressure can fluctuate quite a bit in Game 7. We’re not getting anywhere.”

But perhaps what worries most for Monday’s Heat is that the Celtics – who normally rely on their ability to score 3-pointers – were able to eke out the win on Saturday despite failing on 7 attempts from 35 hit a playoff low from the deep.

Until Butler scored an incredible 10 points in just over two minutes to give the Heat the lead, he was largely irrelevant on a night in which he managed just 5 of 21 points from the field. In the last three games, Butler has shot 19 of 55 overall.

He said that didn’t shake his determination to do whatever it takes to prevent a disappointing ending for Miami.

“You’ll get the same test until you pass it, I swear,” Butler said. “We were in the same position last year. We can do it. I know we will make it. We have to take to the streets and win in a very, very, very difficult environment.”

This neighborhood happens to be the city that is home to the first — and still only — team in Major League Baseball history to make a 3-0 comeback in the series.

That team, the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox, bounced back from that gap in the American League Championship Series against rival New York Yankees.

2004 ALCS MVP David Ortiz said it made sense that the Celtics would be able to accomplish what was previously unthinkable.

“Yes, and there’s no better time than now for that,” Ortiz said in an interview with The Associated Press. “If you do it in basketball, it has to be the same city.”

The Celtics are only 5-5 at home in this playoff, but there’s no place they’d rather have when their season is at stake.

“It’s going to be huge. The best two words in esports are ‘Game 7,'” Brown said. “And I know our home crowd will bring the energy. So I’m excited.”

There was no information about the status of Boston guard Malcolm Brogdon for Game 7. The NBA’s sixth Man of the Year missed Saturday night’s win with a right forearm strain.

Boston’s reserves were beaten 22-11 in the absence of Brogdon. Robert Williams III went into the locker room late in the second quarter with a left wrist injury but came back in the second half to finish the evening with 10 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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