The Miami Heat had seemingly won the Eastern Conference Finals last Sunday. When they won Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, they pushed their series lead to 3-0. No NBA team has ever managed a 3-0 series lead, but the Celtics are making a strong run into history with big wins in Games 4 and 5. Now the Heat are on the defensive playing their final home game of the series on Saturday when they host Boston for Game 6.
It’s a game the Heat fully expects to win. At least Jimmy Butler thinks so, as he guaranteed the win after Losing Game 5 in Miami. “We will always stay positive, knowing that we can and will win this series,” said Butler told reporters. “We’ll just have to shut it down at home.”
Home teams are typically huge favorites in any playoff game, especially those that come later in a series. The Celtics are perhaps the rare exception. Boston has actually been better on the road (5-3) than at home (5-5) this postseason. During the long regular season, Miami’s home record (27-14) was not much better than Boston’s road record (25-16), and the Celtics had a better road net score (plus-3.3) than Miami’s at home (plus-1.1). The Heat will have home field advantage in Game 6, but the numbers suggest that won’t be much of an advantage.
That was the case last season, when these two teams met in the play-offs and the home team won only two of the seven games. That included Boston’s Game 7 victory en route to their journey to the NBA Finals. Of course, Butler nearly prevented that win with two of the best games of his career to end that streak. He scored 47 points in Game 6 to effectively create a one-game Eastern Conference Championship a season ago, then nearly stole Game 7 with a 35-point masterpiece. He fell short by a three-pointer.
Butler has been even better for most of this postseason, leading a No. 8 seed to the brink of the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1999 Knicks. But Game 6 will be his toughest challenge yet. The Heat has lost two games in a row. They are missing two key players in Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, and Gabe Vincent may also be out after sitting out for Game 5 with an ankle sprain. It’s up to Butler to win this game for Miami, and if his comments after Thursday’s game were any indication, he plans to do just that.