BOSTON — It was over. Finished. The Celtics won. The Heat lost. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were headed to their first Finals.
Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry were headed home. Draymond Green was preparing for Boston.
The NBA was, too. More than 19,000 fans packed TD Garden for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night expecting a coronation.
They left with their team headed back to Miami—one loss away from elimination.
Butler did it. Ten years ago LeBron James took the same floor, stared down the same crowd and fended off conference finals elimination with a 45-point performance that would (briefly) define him.
On Saturday, Butler, his knee sore, his team battered, stepped up and delivered 47 of his own.
He made 55% of his shots. He made 50% of his threes. He made all 11 free throws and came within one rebound and two assists of a triple-double.
“Jimmy brought his competitive will tonight,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “It was a will that would not let us lose.”