Most of Vincent’s teammates then headed to their homes in the Miami area as they faced the collective challenge of how to bounce back from a soul-crushing loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Already lost for a long time.
But back in the locker room, the atmosphere was bleak, with an oversized image of the NBA’s Larry O’Brien championship trophy sewn into the carpet and a series of murals depicting the NBA’s past victories lining the tunnel leading to the court. . The song’s lyrics about heartbreak were of little help. Vincent’s iPhone leaked a small, hollow sound, as if the music was streaming through a radiator.
It hit me like a train and I was speechless.
I can’t say anything, everything hurts.
“It’s a great song,” said Vincent.
Nothing has been easy for the Heat this season, but after the Celtics won 104-103 in Game 6 to tie the series three games at a time, Vincent probably did poetic justice. I hinted at it.Derrick White’s amazing putback at the buzzer — the ball at his fingertips about 1/10th of a second to spare — Extended the best-of-7 series and the Celtics season to Game 7 in Boston on Monday night.
The Heat couldn’t get any closer to reaching the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets. And in an instant, the dream somehow felt so far away.
“It should be like this,” said Vincent. “But go to Boston and win.”
As Vincent, the team’s starting point guard put it simply, the series has been like a carnival. The Heat won their first three games and joined the Knicks for the 1998-99 season, making history as they seek to become the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals. Now, the Celtics are looking to become the first team to win an NBA playoff series after losing by three games.
“This is a hell of a series,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “At the moment we don’t know how we’re going to achieve this, but we’re on our way to achieving it.”
It was a public vote of confidence after a game that saw many missed opportunities for the Heat. Where do I start? Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, two of the team’s best players combined, made 9 of 37 field goals.
Butler, in particular, looked quite passive for much of the match. He entered the second quarter and was handling the ball on the top of the perimeter as the shot clock ended. But instead of driving, Butler shoved a pass to Duncan Robinson, who had little choice but to pull the runner up from his 11-foot height and skimmed the front of the rim. Seconds later, Celtics’ Jayson Tatum scored a layup on the opposing side.
But other plays could also plague the Heat. In the fourth quarter, for example, Adebayo grabbed the rim and blocked a shot, which was illegal and led to the Celtics’ four-point possession.
As a team, the Heat posted a 35.5 percent field goal percentage. They missed hookshots, layups, jumpers and floaters. There were still chances thanks to Caleb Martin, who slipped into the starting lineup and scored 21 points, and Butler, who asserted himself in the second half and was fouled for a three-point shot with three seconds remaining. Scored all three free throws for a 1-point lead.
But it was all a prelude to the final sequence – a 3-point shot by Celtics’ Marcus Smart that White put back. The Heat’s Max Strass hedged Tatum to get the ball, leaving White with an open lane to the basket for a follow-up.
“I thought that play covered a lot,” Spoelstra said. I have no regrets about it. It’s just a shame. ”
Butler, who scored 15 of 24 points in the fourth quarter, took the blame.
“If I played better, we wouldn’t even be in this standings,” he said. “And I get better. It makes me smile because they’re following my instructions. So when I’m playing better, I think we’re playing better overall.” .”
After finishing the regular season with a 44-38 record, the Heat advanced to the play-in tournament and lost their opening game to the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat then trailed the Chicago Bulls by six points in the fourth quarter of the elimination game, and then went on a winning streak to narrowly advance to the playoffs.
But something strange was beginning to seep inside Heat. The bigger the challenge, the better they play. Miami lost two rotation players in Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo to long-term injuries in the first round against the top-seeded Bucks, and that should have been a problem. But Butler was great as the Heat went on to win five games.
But that version of Butler is lacking, as the Heat lost a three-game lead streak. He’s passed shots, hesitated to drive, and turned the ball over. In other words, he looks tired after a long season of hard work.
Now Miami faces its biggest test yet. Butler said he plans to play a game of spades in the middle of the night to soothe him.
“I’m not going to let the players quit,” he said. “Nobody cares what they say. Everything will be fine.”
Game 7 is another chance for the No. 2-seeded Celtics to live up to their vow to turn around the season and return to the NBA Finals a year after losing to the Golden State Warriors. Tatum was inconsistent even when he won, and was usually going scoreless for long stretches with his season in jeopardy every night. He scored just 6 of 31 points in the second half of Saturday’s game.
“We all know it’s not the time to celebrate,” Tatum said. “We achieved nothing.”
It was nearing midnight when Butler called guard Kyle Lowry into the locker for a quiet talk. Vincent left the premises with moody music.
The monitor in front of the room had exactly one item on the team’s schedule for Sunday. It’s a 1:30 p.m. flight to Boston.