The final minutes of Game 6 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat were the most suspenseful throughout the series.
With the Heat seeking a series win after failing twice and Boston fighting for survival for a third straight time, the final two possessions were incredibly pivotal. Jimmy Butler did his part in knocking down three-of-three free throws to put Miami ahead, 102-101, with three seconds left in the game, putting Boston in an improbable spot while leaving most Heat fans thinking they’d reached the NBA Finals.
Then came Derrick White, who became the latest Boston playoff hero, tipping in a Marcus Smart missed 3-point attempt with under a second left to tie the Eastern Conference finals up at 3-3 and book a Game 7 at TD Garden on Monday night. The entire unfolding led to many questions surrounding how Boston was able to pull it off. No, not from a faithful perspective, but an officiating one.
This was obviously a major blow to the many inattentive Heat fans who believed White’s shot wasn’t in time and they’d already secured their ticket to the Finals. The league cleared the air and addressed the confusion after releasing its official Last Two-Minute Report on Sunday.
“Replay review of the foul called on Horford (BOS) pursuant to a coach’s challenge was deemed unsuccessful,” the report read. “Horford (BOS) made contact with Butler (MIA) during his shooting motion and a foul was warranted. During the review, the Replay Center Official also determined that i) the foul occurred at 3.0 seconds and adjusted the clock accordingly; and ii) Butler’s shot attempt was taken from behind the three-point line, and therefore three free throws were awarded.”
After Butler drew the 3-point foul on Al Horford to put Miami ahead, the officials on the floor also added 0.9 seconds on the clock, which as we know now, proved to save Boston from watching its season end after owning a 10-point lead with under five minutes left in the game.
But that wasn’t all.
In fact, while at first glance many felt as though the Heat were robbed, it was the Celtics who were disadvantaged by some untimely officiating misfortunes.
It was discovered that Heat forward Caleb Martin committed a lane violation during one of Jaylen Brown’s two free-throw attempts with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter — Brown missed one. Also, at the 33-second mark, Jayson Tatum was blocked by Gabe Vincent, leaving Boston’s lead at 101-100. However, upon further review, the NBA determined it wasn’t a clean block, marking two missed calls that went against the Celtics.
“Martin (MIA) steps into the lane prior to Brown (BOS) releasing his free throw attempt, preventing White (BOS) from getting into position to rebound,” the report reads. “… Vincent (MIA) moves laterally and turns into Tatum’s (BOS) path after his gather, initiating body contact that affects Tatum’s driving shot attempt.”
The C’s have their shot to pull off what no other team in NBA history has ever done before, coming back from a 3-0 deficit and securing their return to the Finals.