Derrick White strikes at buzzer, Celtics force Game 7 vs. Heat
Field Level Media
May 27, 2023
The Boston Celtics were three seconds away from being eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals when Derrick White inbounded the ball to Marcus Smart.
Instead of being a spectator, White darted toward the left corner and with no Miami Heat players around him, headed toward the basket as Smart's shot went in and out. His instincts put him in perfect position to score on a tip-in just before the buzzer sounded as Boston scored an unlikely 104-103 victory.
"It doesn't do no good to stand in the corner there whether he makes it or not," White said. "So I was just crashing the glass and it came right to me."
White's dramatic basket gave second-seeded Boston its third straight victory to become just the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after losing the first three games of a playoff series.
The victory came after Boston blew a 10-point lead with under five minutes remaining. But White's heroics earned the Celtics a home game against the Heat on Monday as the club improved to 5-0 in elimination games this postseason.
"I'm just happy we won," White said. "Whatever it takes. Our backs are against the wall. I'm just happy we won."
The decisive hoop came after Jimmy Butler made three throws with 3.0 seconds left to give the Heat a one-point edge.
Jayson Tatum registered 31 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Jaylen Brown added 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics. Smart scored 21 points, White had 11 and Robert Williams III added 10.
Butler experienced a horrendous 5-of-21 shooting night but scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Butler scored 13 of his points during the 15-4 burst that put Miami in the lead. Butler was looking for the last shot and was fouled by Al Horford with three seconds left. The call was reviewed, and Butler was ruled to be behind the 3-point line and was granted three free throws and he made them all.
Then White made the winning basket and the celebration that Heat fans were expecting never happened.
"That's the only place it could have bounced," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of the outcome. "I thought we had a lot of things covered on that play. But sometimes things don't break your way. I don't think there are any regrets on that. This is the way this season has been. This is one hell of a series."
Butler knew where to place the blame.
"Everything that happened tonight -- if I don't go 5-for-21 and turn the ball over (twice), it's a different story," Butler said. "I'd have a different hat on up here and we'd be going to the (NBA) Finals."
Butler also had 11 rebounds and eight assists. Caleb Martin recorded 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Heat.
Miami's Gabe Vincent had 15 points, Duncan Robinson added 13, Bam Adebayo contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds and Max Strus had 10 points.
Boston barely looked interested in continuing the series while being whipped 128-102 in Game 3 before staging the impressive recovery.
White drained a 3-pointer and Smart converted a three-point play to give Boston a 98-88 advantage with 4:56 remaining before Miami staged the comeback.
White then became a "flash of lightning," as Brown put it, to provide an electrical finish.
"That was incredible," Tatum said. "... That felt like the longest 10 seconds ever waiting for confirmation if he made it or not. I'm still like in disbelief."
Boston's Malcolm Brogdon (right forearm strain) sat out the contest.
The Celtics shot 43.6 percent from the field and were a shaky 7 of 35 from 3-point range.
Miami shot just 35.5 percent, but made 14 of 30 shot attempts from behind the arc.
Tatum scored 16 of his 25 first-half points in the second quarter to help the Celtics hold a 57-53 halftime lead. Boston led 79-72 entering the fourth.
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