Star forward Jimmy Butler (L) said the Miami Heat will beat the Boston Celtics and win the Eastern Conference finals Saturday in Miami. Photo by C.J. Gunther/EPA-EFE
May 26 (UPI) -- Jimmy Butler said the Miami Heat are "going to win" Game 6 and close out the Boston Celtics, despite their two-game losing skid in the Eastern Conference finals.
Butler made the comments Thursday night after the Celtics beat the Heat 110-97 in Game 5 at TD Garden in Boston. The Heat, who started the series with three-consecutive wins, still hold a 3-2 edge and need to win one of the final two games to advance to the NBA Finals.
"We've just got to play better," Butler told reporters. Start the game off better, on the starters, and make it more difficult for them. They were in a rhythm since the beginning of the game. But we are always going to stay positive, knowing that we can and we will win this series. We'll just have to close it out at home."
The Heat will host the Celtics in Game 6 on Saturday in Miami. The Celtics are attempting to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit. The Los Angeles Lakers, who were swept 4-0 by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, were the 150th team in NBA history to lose a seven-game series after starting it with three-consecutive losses.
The Heat are attempting to become just the second No. 8 seed in league history to advance to the NBA Finals. No No. 8 seed has claimed an NBA title.
They made nearly 52% of their shots and averaged 120.6 points per game through the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals. They shot 47.4% and logged 99 and 97 points, respectively in their Game 4 and Game 5 losses.
The Heat also made nearly 48% of their 3-point attempts through the first three games of the series. They made 30.9% of their shots from downtown over their last two. The Celtics shot a better percentage over their first three games of the series than in their two wins, but are making more 3-pointers and hitting them at a higher percentage.
They totaled 31 makes from downtown through the first three games, but sank 34 3-pointers in Games 4 and 5. They made 29.2% of their 3-pointers in their three losses, but hit 40.4% of their 3-pointers in their two wins.
Butler blamed the Heat's shooting skid on a struggling defense and lack of energy.
"The last two games are not who we are," Butler said. "It just happened to be that way. We stopped playing defense halfway because we didn't make shots that we want to make. But that's easily correctable. You just have to come out and play harder from the jump.
"Like I always say, it's going to be all smiles and we are going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing that we are going to win next game."
Butler totaled 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in Game 5. Heat forward Duncan Robinson scored a team-high 18 points off the bench.
Celtics guard Derrick White scored a game-high 24 points in the victory. Star forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored 21 points apiece for the Celtics. Celtics guard Marcus Smart chipped in 23 points. The Celtics made 50.6% of their shots and 41% of their 3-point attempts in the win. They also out-rebounded the Heat 37-36 and forced 16 turnovers.
Brown said he expects the Heat to play better in Game 6.
"It's going to take everything," Brown said Thursday. "It's going to be a dogfight. I imagine those guys will play better than they played [Thursday], and they're going to come out aggressive. We've got to be ready to take their punch at home. We've got to be ready to be resilient and come out and do what we're supposed to do."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he is not worried about his team's mood after their two losses and vowed to have his players ready to close out the series.
"You always expect things to be challenging in the conference finals," Spoelstra said. "One game doesn't lead to the next game. Based on all the experience that we've had, it doesn't matter in the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you lose by whatever. We beat them by whatever in Game 3. It just doesn't matter.
"It's about collectively preparing and putting together a great game. We'll play much better on Saturday. That's all we just have to focus on right now."
The Heat and Celtics will tip off Game 6 at 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday in Miami. The game will air on TNT.