Derrick White saves Boston at the buzzer: Three takeaways from a Game 6 miracle for the Celtics

The Boston Celtics have forced an improbable Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals after a 104-103 Game 6 win against the Miami Heat. Down one point on the final play, Derrick White put back a missed Marcus Smart 3-pointer with just a few tenths of a second remaining to lift the Celtics past the Heat and force a Game 7. Once down 0-3 in the series, Boston now has an opportunity to punch a ticket to the NBA Finals with a win on their home court Monday night.

It wasn’t the prettiest win. Boston coughed up 12 turnovers. Their rotations on the perimeter were too slow. As a team, the Celtics shot just 20% from deep. Still, with Derrick White’s heroic shot and a solid defensive effort around the rim, Boston was able to secure a season-saving Game 6 victory. Rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla has led his team back from the absolute brink, with a chance to make NBA history.

Boston will host its second consecutive Game 7. In the previous series, the Celtics vanquished the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 behind a record 51 points from Jayson Tatum. Now, Boston will once again need to perform in the clutch to advance the season. Here’s your recap for a 104-103 Celtics miracle win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston's offense

May 27, 2023; <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Miami;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Miami</a>, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Gabe Vincent;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Gabe Vincent</a> (2) shoots against Boston Celtics center <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Robert Williams III;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Robert Williams III</a> (44) in the third quarter during game six of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Poor 3-point shooting dogged the Celtics in Game 6 from the jump. As a team, Boston went just 7-for-34 from deep, neutering any sort of offensive rhythm for the visiting team. Miami hit 7 more 3-pointers than the Celtics in what should have been a fatal deficit for Boston. Instead, the Celtics won the game by simply dominating the action at the rim.

Boston scored 42 points in the paint and shot 29-for-34 from the free throw line. Add in 12 fast break points, and the Celtics were taking care of business in the painted area. Though the game came down to an improbable shot by Derrick White, it was a focus on attacking the cup that won the Boston the game.

Still, by some measures, the Celtics are lucky to have won this game. Because of their inconsistent shooting, the game swung back and forth, with the visiting team coughing up a 13-point lead at one point. Throw in issues with ball security, and it’s a rather fitting Boston needed a small miracle to win the game.

Boston's defense

Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Miami was stellar from the 3-point line and the home team’s 46.7% shooting performance allowed the Heat to hang around and challenge Boston, despite struggling elsewhere on offense. It was a familiar boogeyman for the Celtics, and a defensive problem that haunted the team earlier in the series. Even with Jayson Tatum scoring 25 points in the first half, Boston couldn’t close the door.

Rotations on the 3-point line may have been a little late, but defending Jimmy Butler was a clear priority for the Celtics. After dominating the pace and scoring in the first few games, he disappeared in Game 6. Butler logged 24 points on 5-for-21 shooting from the field, though he did heat up in the final quarter and ended the game with 11 rebounds and 8 assists.

Taking Butler out of the game was critical for the Celtics. Likewise, Boston took Bam Adebayo out of his rhythm. It was an approach that forced Miami’s role players to step up, and one that has worked for Joe Mazzulla in the past few games. Still, the Heat came within a few fractions of a second from overcoming Boston’s defensive strategy. The ultimate example of “bend don’t break.”

Looking ahead

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Forcing a Game 7 after being down 3-0 in a series is exceedingly rare in NBA history, and no team has ever erased a 3-0 deficit to advance to the next round. The Celtics will look to become the first Monday night in Boston.

Rallying back from such a abysmal start to the East Finals is a testament to this team’s depth and poise. Tatum, Brown, and Mazzulla in particular were the subject of major scorn earlier in the series. No doubt they now deserve equal praise for turning things around in such dramatic fashion.

The group’s goal has always been another trip to the Finals. Coming up short would be painful, no doubt. But for now, this is a Cinderella run for the ages, and something worth celebrating.

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire