NBA playoffs: Celtics force Game 7 with Derrick White buzzer-beater, on verge of historic comeback vs. Heat

Hug your closest Miami Heat fan. The Boston Celtics have forced a Game 7, thanks to a Derrick White miracle.

After falling behind 3-0 in the Eastern Conference finals, White's tip-in as time expired gave the Celtics a 104-103 victory over the Heat in Game 6 on Saturday to send the series to a winner-take-all showdown in Boston on Monday to decide who will play the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

Game 7 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

The Celtics have made history just by forcing a Game 7, joining the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers, 1994 Denver Nuggets and 1951 New York Knicks in evening a series after being down 3-0. Now they get to find out if they're the first team in that group to win.

May 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) reacts during the second quarter of game five against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Derrick White came out of nowhere to force Game 7 for the Celtics. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Derrick White the hero for Celtics

The Heat might be in the middle of a collapse, but the game nearly ended with Boston falling apart. The Celtics led by as many as 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, then coughed up the lead.

The Heat's final points came on an unreal turn of events, when Al Horford's foul on Jimmy Butler while up 2 points with 2.1 seconds remaining was reviewed to see if he was behind the 3-point line. It was determined Butler was behind the line and that meant three free throws for Butler, who made them all, and the time remaining was adjusted to 3.0 seconds. That turned out to be a massive deal.

The Celtics got the ball back, and Marcus Smart attempted a desperation game-winning 3-pointer, which missed. However, as the Miami crowd cheered and thought the game was over, White got the rebound and tipped the ball in to win the game.

It didn't look like White got the shot off in time, but replay confirmed him as the hero.

It was still an ugly win for the Celtics

Until about five minutes left in the fourth, the Celtics again looked like a top-tier team facing a play-in team. Unlike the previous two games, though, they didn't do it by shooting lights out from 3-point range. Instead, it was a suffocating effort on defense anchored by center Robert Williams and a tough shooting night for Miami on 2-pointers.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, once the dominant forces in this series, looked like shells of their former selves for the most of the game. They entered the fourth quarter shooting 5-of-29 from the field. As a team overall, the Heat finished the game shooting 13-of-34 in the paint, but shot well from three (46.7%) to stay in the game.

Meanwhile, the Celtics struggled shooting from deep, finishing 7-of-35 from three, but made up for it with a pair of strong nights from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Heat defense struggled to stay in front of both of them all night, and the pair combined for 57 points.

The whole game really should have been more of a blowout, especially when the Celtics built a 13-point lead in the third quarter. What kept Miami in the game was their group of previously unheralded players in Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson.

The Heat kept pushing late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, at one point taking the lead on a rare basket inside from Butler.

It didn't last. Brown scored on the next possession to take back control for the Celtics. Three minutes later, they were up by 10 again. And then the Heat came back, again. Had it not been for a pair of missed Robinson 3-pointers in the final minutes, we would be talking about a very different game.

But he did, and the Heat ultimately lost despite getting the lead back with Butler's free throws in the final seconds. Despite that comeback, they still looked less talented than the Celtics. They looked like they were grinding. Which they were. It just no longer looked like the path to victory it did when they were making all the shots and hustle plays in the first three games.

And now, the Heat need a win Monday lest they join the 2004 New York Yankees in blowing a 3-0 lead to Boston.