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Buzzer-beating Boston force Miami to game seven

With a dramatic, buzzer-beater from Derrick White, the Boston Celtics forced their NBA Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat to a winner-take-all game seven with a heart-stopping 104-103 win in South Florida on Saturday.

The Celtics became just the fourth team in NBA history to level a best-of-seven playoff series after trailing 3-0.

They will now have a chance on Monday to create an even more impressive milestone if they can become the first team to win a series after losing the opening three games.

The winner of Monday's game will face the Western Conference champions, the Denver Nuggets, in the NBA Finals starting on Thursday.

The Celtics had led for most of the contest but Miami looked to have grabbed the win and the series when Jimmy Butler was fouled, attempting a three-point shot, by Boston's Al Horford.

With three seconds left on the clock, Butler, who had been well below-par until he came alive late in the fourth quarter, kept his cool to sink all three free throws and give the Heat a 103-102 lead with three seconds remaining.

Facing elimination, Marcus Smart's three-point attempt bounced off the rim, but White was alert and strong to tip the rebound into the backet, the shot leaving his fingertips only a fraction of a second before the buzzer.

The Miami crowd were distraught as the Celtics celebrated in a huddle on the court.

"I'm happy we won. Whatever it takes. We got our backs against the wall. Just happy we won," said White.

"We're a resilient group. We pick each other up. We fought for each other. The job isn't done yet. We've got a tough one in game seven and we've got to find a way to get one more win."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra rued his team's luck on the decisive final play.

"That thing just bounced a different way. That's the only place it could have bounced to hurt us. I thought we had a lot of things covered on that play and sometimes things just don't break your way," he said.

Jayson Tatum led Boston with 31 points and had 11 rebounds and five assists while Jaylen Brown came up with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

Butler went into the fourth quarter with just nine points but ended with 24 while Caleb Martin provided 21 points for Miami.

Butler shot just 5-of-21 and took responsibility for Miami's situation.

"I told the guys in the locker room, if I play better we are not even in this position," said Butler, who vowed to be back to his best in game seven.

The Celtics had led by 11 points midway through the second quarter as Miami struggled at both ends of the court, but the Heat rallied to reduce the deficit to 57-53 at half-time.

Again, Boston opened up another double-figure lead in the third but once more couldn't quite shrug off Miami and the Heat found a way to grab the lead with a Butler tip lay-up making it 83-82 with 7:57 left in the four.

But the Celtics responded strongly with a 16-5 run before the late drama began to unfold with Butler scoring ten points to give Miami the lead with three seconds to go.

Now the drama is set for another four quarters in Boston with the series on the line, but the momentum is clearly with Boston after roaring back from the brink of an early exit.

"It gives you a supreme boost in confidence, man. It doesn't get too much worse than being down 0-3. We feel like we've been to hell and back," said Brown.

"We feel like we can face any adversity that gets thrown at us in the duration of the game or the duration of the season or in the postseason. It all means nothing if we don't come out and give our best effort on our home floor on Monday night."

© 2023 AFP