The Miami Heat blew a golden opportunity to make the NBA Finals with a heartbreaking 104-103 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 6. Derrick White's epic game-winner is undoubtedly the main story of the game, but Miami's loss goes much deeper than White's heroics.
Despite the devastating defeat, the Heat remain confident they can still avoid the embarrassment of becoming the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 series lead and win Game 7 on the road. But before Monday's epic battle, let's look back on Game 6. Which Heat players were most to blame for this series heading back to Boston for a do-or-die decider?
3. Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry's nightmare Eastern Conference Finals continues. In 18 minutes on Saturday, the 37-year-old guard tallied just eight points, two rebounds, and three assists. For a guy making $30 million a year, he has to do better than that. Sure, he's coming off the bench and has lost a step or two, but for a veteran to come up small and not really provide anything is detrimental for Miami, who is already fielding in four undrafted players in its playoff rotation.
There's a reason why he logged just 18 minutes and Gabe Vincent played 41 minutes even though the latter is nursing an ankle injury. Lowry just hasn't made his presence felt in the conference finals. Heat fans are certainly disappointed with his production at this stage of the playoffs considering he had been playing well in his reserve role through the first two rounds. Kyle Lowry will need to turn back the clock if Miami wants to win Game 7 on the road.
2. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo also had a Game 6 to forget on Saturday. Though he did tally 13 rebounds and five assists, the two-time All-Star scored just 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field. The poor shooting certainly hurt the Heat.
Adebayo made his first two baskets in the first quarter, but it was all downhill from there. The 6-foot-9 center looked absolutely rattled and bothered by the defense of Robert Williams III and Al Horford (Horford had an absolutely nasty block of Bam in this game) throughout the evening. He missed several relatively good looks around the basket, but give credit to Boston's defense for making it tougher on him. He didn't do much in the fourth quarter when Miami needed him the most, and his decision to box out Jaylen Brown at the foul line instead of crashing the glass on the final play came back to bite him because he wasn't able to challenge White on the game-winner.
As the series goes along, Bam Adebayo is looking less like the All-Star Miami saw in the regular season. For a player like his caliber, he just simply needs to be better. There's no excuse for this performance. Miami relies on him to be efficient and score easy points. While the Celtics' defense deserves praise, he's getting paid the big bucks to produce, especially at this stage of the postseason.
1. Jimmy Butler
Miami Heat fans have been looking for Jimmy Butler for the third straight game. As for Game 6, it was a case of a little too late for Playoff Jimmy to show up. Sure, Butler showed up in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 24 points in the last four minutes. He also made three cold-blooded free throws that, for three seconds at least, looked like would send Miami to the NBA Finals. But if he played just a tad bit better in the first 44 minutes of the game, the Heat might have won the game going away.
While he almost finished with a triple-double (24 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists), the shooting was an absolute nightmare. The 33-year-old shot just 5-of-21 from the field and looked timid and even intimidated at times. He didn't look to be in attack mode for most of the game and, in some moments, he wasn't even looking at the rim. While Boston's defense deserves credit for their defensive scheme, Butler wasn't really looking to score and looked passive, especially in the first half.
He will need to change that on Monday and set the tone early for Miami. Jimmy Butler will need to come out with a score-first mindset in Game 7 if the Heat want to salvage the 3-0 lead they initially built.