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Madrid's inevitability in the Champions League is proving very real

Much should have prevented Real Madrid from winning another European title, but the club's ability to navigate the biggest stage is a priceless, intangible asset. (Author: Gardener)

MadridPARIS – The numbers, and not for the first time in this remarkable run, favored the opposition. Liverpool had 24 shots and were expecting goals over two, Real Madrid just four shots and an xG under one. But of course it was the Spanish giants who lifted the UEFA Champions League title here in the French capital on Saturday, their 14th European success story as they progressed through knockout stages and triumphs against PSG, Chelsea , Manchester City and now Liverpool: Madrid are under pressure, Madrid are holding on, Madrid are scoring when they need to. At a time when managers are talking about tactical philosophies, it is the great pragmatist Carlo Ancelotti who, after the 1-0 triumph at the Stade de France, became the first coach to win the Champions League four times. He has won just five league titles so far (one in each of the five major European leagues). There's something paradoxical about it, but it fits the nature of this season and this Madrid team. There is a confidence in Madrid that seems to despair of their opponents. After Liverpool failed to score an early goal, faith in the English challenger was almost visibly exhausted. Passes went astray, shots went wide and there was one absurd moment that seemed to have led to the first goal when Alisson and Ibrahima Konaté seemed unable to perform the simplest actions and ended up on the ground while the ball bounced between them before Karim Benzema fired in, only to be thwarted by an offside flag. The coup de grace came just before the hour mark when Vinícius Júnior went unmarked at the back post to convert Federico Valverde's cross. It was a nice cross and a nice run, but from a Liverpool point of view the opening goal was far too direct. The danger as Madrid advanced and worked the ball right to Valverde was always Vinícius at the back post. Doubts about Alexander-Arnold - who, as always, was a threat for the future - have always been his defensive quality. He can often appear to be to blame for balls played behind him, although this has more to do with his team's pressing. But that just seemed to be a lack of defensiveness. And when Liverpool found some momentum in the second half, there was Thibaut Courtois, who twice denied Mohamed Salah with stunning saves in a record nine saves. Modrić ran to the tall Belgian to celebrate at the end of the game. It was another shameful night for UEFA and another shameful night for the French police. The organization was insufficient or non-existent, ticket and bag checks led to bottlenecks. Police inexplicably refused to allow fans to walk on a street that was closed to traffic, but blocked part of the sidewalk with vans, making the problem worse. As the number of fans increased, it became increasingly difficult for them to see where to go or for those with tickets to get to the front to get to the goals. The problems mainly arose at the north-west corner of the stadium, where Liverpool fans entered, and it was noticeable half an hour before kick-off how much more crowded the Madrid end of the stadium was. At that point, the police waived the first checkpoint to facilitate access, which was probably the only decision they could make, but the bigger question was how the build-up could even be allowed. Big stadiums only exist to host big events and yet they have time and time again proved incapable – Wembley Stadium for the Euro 2020 final, Olembe for the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 and here again – to do so. Chaos also reigned at the Europa League final in Seville last week as the stadium ran out of water and temperatures soared into the 90s. It's as if the pandemic has robbed organizers of the memory of how to properly arrange these games. About 15 minutes before kick-off came the announcement that the game had been postponed. In Spanish, the announcement blamed "security issues"; in English, the "delayed arrival" of fans was blamed. Maybe some did, but the truth is that two to three hours before kick-off the problems had obviously increased. Although some fans climbed fences and ran through checkpoints, it was also clear that this was an inexcusable failure on the part of the authorities. There was video footage of peaceful fans holding up tickets being pepper sprayed by gendarmes behind a locked gate. French Home Secretary Gérald Darmanin claimed: "Thousands of British 'supporters' without tickets or with fake tickets forced entry and sometimes attacked the stewards." UEFA said Liverpool fans "who bought fake tickets did not work". , were responsible for blocking the entrances and causing bottlenecks. Maybe there were fans without real tickets, but that can't be surprising. If France can't do that then they shouldn't be hosting big games and Liverpool have requested an investigation into the pre-match chaos. It is UEFA's responsibility to provide an adequate ticket sales service. And none of this excuses the brutal behavior of the gendarmerie or the scandal of fans who paid hundreds of dollars for tickets and couldn't get inside. "I was crammed into a shack by a security guard," said Associated Press's Steve Douglas, "told to remove accreditation and then forced to delete video footage of the mass troubles or I wouldn't be let back in." "I'm me not sure if it's possible to have a worse organized event if you try," he tweeted. And after all that, with kick-off 36 minutes late, UEFA continued with its utterly pointless opening ceremony, Camila Cabello singing on the pitch surrounded by flamenco dancers who had been waiting for their moment for almost an hour. The Champions League continues to trigger mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's a grim example of the financial stratification of European football. Madrid and Liverpool are two of the grandees of the game, so it might not matter that they met for the third time in the final, but it doesn't matter that there were no finalists from outside of Europe's Big Five leagues (La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1) since Porto in 2004. On the other hand, the latter stages of the Champions League almost certainly represent the greatest football ever played. The concentration of talent at the biggest clubs, combined with the attacking approach that characterizes almost all of the modern elite, has resulted in a series of extremely dramatic, extremely high quality matches in recent years. This is the challenge of the Champions League: it is seductive and brilliant, yet it has destroyed football as the sport it once was. The group stage is far from perfect, an often tough grind before the real business begins, but it's hard to see how the Swiss model, introduced the season after next, won't be worse. Or bemoan the betrayal of an ideal that had probably faltered long before the European Cup was played in a hotel four miles from the Stade de France? That first season ended in a Madrid win, just like this one. Liverpool, meanwhile, won both domestic cups, lost the league by a point and lost that final. The FA Cup and League Cup feel like a close reward for a near-perfect season. No goals in three finals perhaps portend a bigger problem for Liverpool; Jürgen Klopp's final record is not outstanding for such a successful coach. But the club's winning mentality - that inexplicable extra that always seems to shine on the Champions League stage, even when the numbers, the matchup and all logic dictate it won't be Madrid's day - remains as strong as ever ever.

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People who know new Lakers coach Darvin Ham praise his virtues

What makes Darvin Ham the right coach for the Lakers? Former teammates and players who worked with Darvin Ham explain why he's ready for the job. (Author: Gardener)

Darvin HamDarvin Ham, pictured as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016, was hired as the new coach by the Lakers on Friday. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press) The job, like everything else, requires a coach to stand alongside LeBron James, a player who's been one of basketball's most famous players since high school, and forge a partnership. So, naturally, the Lakers hired Darvin Ham, who spent most of his year-long high school basketball career on the bench. "I didn't know him," said former Saginaw High coach Marshall Thomas, laughing. Ham made the transition from one of the last at Saginaw High (with NBA championships as a player and as an assistant coach) to the big spot on the Lakers bench as part of a journey marked by one of his greatest strengths - his tenacity. Darwin made his own way,” said Thomas. News of Ham's hiring - which has still not been announced by the Lakers - was corroborated by those who have crossed paths with Ham throughout his career: former coaches, teammates and peers who have praised the Lakers for turning things on have passed a first-time coach. "He's going to be honest as a Lakers coach and that's what I think you need in the NBA today - someone who's honest but knows how to be honest without actually just tearing you down," the former said Teammate Chauncey Billups. now said the coach in Portland on Saturday. He won as a player. He won as a coach. Billups thinks the Lakers got it right. He's the right man for this job with the Lakers," Billups said. Darvin Ham gestures during a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets in January 2022. Back in Ham's hometown, former high school teammate Julian Taylor could hardly believe what he was hearing. Taylor, like so many people in Michigan, loved the Lakers because of Magic Johnson. While Taylor watched Ham work his way from high school to NBA player, the recent accomplishment was almost too much to believe. Saginaw has produced NBA players - a lineage that includes Draymond Green, Mark Macon and Jason Richardson. "Darv is their head coach, a guy who has beaten all odds, wasn't picked to make it ... he just worked," Taylor said. At Saginaw High, Ham didn't even play basketball until his senior year, a summer growth spurt that launched his career. Back then, Thomas was confident his returning players would help build the team's roster and almost everyone said Ham should make it. He wasn't a star - he hardly played - but Ham possessed a quality that made Thomas recommend him to a junior college coach. He's a real competitor, always has been a competitor," said Thomas. “…The greatest thing about Darvin was never his ability. The thing is, Darwin was always a great person. Hard-nosed, hard-working, but a great person.” Years later, Billups experienced the same things with Ham as a teammate at the Pistons, one of Ham's six NBA homes. "I'm sure if you've spoken to the guys he's played with, he was probably their favorite teammate guy. He was always so competitive," Billups said. Every time he came into play, he simply raised the level of the game. Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham watches from the sidelines during a game. (Aaron Gash/Associated Press) Former NBA coach and current Indiana Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson was an assistant to those Pistons teams. He remembered Ham as someone who would never "bull" in practice because he was too committed. "His work ethic in practice and when we brought him into the game, he always seemed to deliver," Woodson said. “And it was based on his hard work. He put in the time on the practice pitch and it always translated into the game nicely. So they knew the fact that he came into coaching, I knew it was going to work because that's a big part of being a good coach. You have to work.” Ham got his first chance to coach NBA players with the Lakers in 2011 as a developmental coach on Mike Brown's staff after coaching three seasons in the developmental league. Metta Sandiford-Artest - then known as Metta World Peace - was on that Lakers team and remembers tapping Ham as a future coach. "He worked hard, coached all the players, coached me," Sandiford-Artest said. "He trained everyone. He's definitely present, but he also has a communication about him, which means I won't say it softly, but you understand he has your best interest at heart." As the Lakers coach, he's asked to share with some of the to communicate with the NBA's biggest stars, including James, perhaps the biggest. Following news of Ham's hiring, James tweeted his support - a promising early move. Anyone who knows Ham, from his time in the NBA or from his time at Saginaw, knows he's equipped to take on a challenge.” “At Saginaw, we're made of different cloth at Saginaw Basketball,” said Taylor. Darvin was such a hard worker.

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4 things to watch out for in Game 7 of the Heat Celtics series

Superstar players, wild swings in dynamics, and nagging concerns all come under the withering glare of Game 7's spotlight. (Author: Gardener)

Game 7MIAMI — The Eastern Conference Finals will be decided by a win-or-go home Game 7 on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). This will be the 145th Game 7 in NBA history. Home teams are 108-32 (.771) in Game 7, a record that doesn't include the four Game 7s played in the 2020 bubble. But starting with the 2016 Finals, the road team has won six of their last 10 non-bubble 7 games. The Celtics have already won a Game 7 in these playoffs and knocked out the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks two weeks ago. This will be the 35th Game 7 in franchise history, but only the eighth Boston has played on the road. They are 3-4 record in the last seven, with one of those losses coming in the 2012 Conference Finals in Miami. Of course, Game 7s from 10 or 20 years ago have little to do with what's played on Sunday nights. Turnover changes have been a problem for both teams in this series, but those aren't the only mistakes that can be made on offense. The Celtics erased a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter in Game 6 on Friday to take a three-point lead. But poor execution at both ends of the floor in the final 3 1/2 minutes kept them from finishing the streak. With a 99-score, Marcus Smart pulled off one of the game's worst shots, an iso pull-up against P. That was all the Celtics had left after taking far too long to get on their initial offense. With Jayson Tatum also slowly walking up the floor, Smart crossed the center field line with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. And the Celtics continued to move slowly, with Tatum's ball sieve for Smart taking place with just seven seconds on the clock. Tatum rolled under Kyle Lowry's switch, but Jimmy Butler marked the roll and Smart didn't have a passing angle to Jaylen Brown (the guy Butler was guarding)... So the Celtics had nothing to do with five seconds on the clock, and Smart decided his best shot was a pull up 3 with Tucker in position to contest the shot. The result was still a tie 30 seconds later as the Celtics had one of their worst defensive collapses of the series. Max Strus put up a ball protection for Butler and Derrick White just sniffed his pick and roll coverage, allowing Butler to drive to the rim for an and-1 bucket that finally put the heat ahead...Tatum spun blind in a double team, turns the ball over. That made it a two-possession game and Boston would not have another chance to equalize or take the lead. The Celtics gave themselves a chance to win Game 6 and then fumbled them away with errors at both ends of the floor that were entirely avoidable. Similar mistakes by both teams in Game 7 would be even more damaging. Discussing Butler's performance -- 47 points (16 for 29 FGs, 11 for 11 FTs), nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals, one block and just one turnover -- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "Sometimes you just need to need it Your best players and your man to make games. The Heat may need another big game from Butler on Sunday. And while that might not come in the form of 47 points, making the open jumpers the Celtics give him and getting to the rim (or free-throw line) even if they ask him to shoot could be a similar combo ...and wreak havoc on defense to give the Heat easy transitions. The need for the best players to make it big certainly doesn't just apply to the Heat. And the Celtics will likely need more from Tatum and Brown than they got in Game 6. Of course, Tatum and Brown are limited to just eight points total in Friday's fourth quarter (1-on-2 from the field, 6-for-8 from the line) it wasn't that they shyed away from the moment. It was about a heat defense that wouldn't allow the great players to make great plays. The Celtics, as they were all series, looked for mismatches and Strus was the primary target most of the time. But the heat didn't allow Tatum and Brown to play one-on-one. In the second half of Game 6, they quickly sent double teams... And the Celtics had 57 points on 47 possessions (1.21 per possession) in the second half of Game 6, so it's not like the Heat's extra-aggressive defense great was effective. Still, it will be interesting to see both early and late in Game 7 how aggressively the Heat sends multiple defenders on Tatum and Brown. A similar approach from Sunday's jump will force other Celtics to make plays and fire shots. It's a make-or-miss league, and according to Second Spectrum tracking, the team that hit better shots (Miami in Games 1 and 5, Boston in Games 2, 3, 4 and 6) is only 3 -3 in this league series. Game 7 might just boil down to which team makes more of the shots they get, whether they're good or bad. And sometimes a hard-fought shot late in the clock (like the Smart 3 above) is all you get. In Game 3 (which they won by six points) the Heat took three hard shots to the shot clock buzzer... Those 3 shots the Heat hit to the shot clock buzzer were... lucky. pic.twitter.com/SvYZk7k6rE When they lost three in the fourth quarter of Game 6, Kyle Lowry hit what was probably the biggest shot of the series yet, a late 3 in a crowd that saved running possession nowhere. A few minutes later, Butler hit an even harder shot late in the clock to take the Heat to six in the final minute. In their three wins, the Heat are 21 to 49 (43%) with the last six seconds of the shot clock. The Celtics don't have nearly as much of a difference, but they also fired a larger percentage of their shots in the last six seconds of the clock. There will be late situations for both teams on Sunday and finding ways to convert them into points will be huge. The Heat looked like the more exhausted team in Game 5, but Butler and Lowry apparently found their legs again two nights later. Herro provides the Celtics with another defender to target. The Heat have allowed him more than 122 points per 100 possessions this series, and he hasn't been able to make up for that with his offense, shooting 1-on-14 from 3-point range in the threes games he's played . But Herro can be flammable on the other end, and he's a player who can salvage some of those possessions that aren't going anywhere. Both Smart (right ankle) and Robert Williams III (left knee) are listed as questionable for Boston. Both played in Game 6, although Williams did not play in the fourth quarter. He's had some pretty incredible defensive moments this series, but also a few times he's been caught flat-footed. In Sunday's third quarter, both Butler (on a drive) and Victor Oladipo (with a step-back 3) scored isolated points against Williams. The good outweighed the bad, and the Celtics have been the best defensively this series with Williams, conceding just one point per possession.

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Game 7 prediction, selection, tv channel, live stream how to watch nba playoffs online

The series is tied 3-3 (Author: Gardener)

nbaAfter trailing 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat produced an impressive Game 6 win to extend the streak and force a crucial Game 7 in Miami on Sunday night. In Game 6, the Heat showed a collective ability to bounce back, as did several key contributors on their roster. After averaging 27 points in Games 3, 4 and 5, Jimmy Butler led the Heat to victory with a playoff career-high 47 points in Game 6. Likewise, Kyle Lowry had more points (18) and assists (10) in Game 6. than he had together in the rest of the series. Both guys have struggled with injury issues this postseason but they've clearly been trying to overcome them and be available for their team. Now the Heat are one win away from their second Finals appearance in three seasons, while the Celtics are hoping for their first Finals appearance since 2010. Here's everything you need to know about Miami vs Boston Game 7. Heat: As it turns out, the Heat are a much better team when they actually take a few shots. In Games 4 and 5, the Heat shot a total of 60 of 184 (32.6 percent) from field and 21 of 81 (25.9 percent) from 3-point land. In Game 6, they knocked down 15 3-pointers, their most in a game of the series and the second highest in the entire playoffs, and they shot 46.2 percent from the field. The aggression of Miami's playmakers like Butler and Lowry was key to generating open chances in Game 6, so look to Miami to try and duplicate that approach in Game 7. Celtics: If they want to advance to the finals, the Celtics just have to do it to be more careful with the ball. In Game 6, they had 17 turnovers that resulted in 23 points for the Heat. In their Game 3 loss they had a whopping 24 turnovers and in their Game 1 loss they had 16. In these playoffs the Celtics are 1-4 if they have more than 15 turnovers and 10-2 if they stay at or under number . If they pay attention to the ball, they create excellent winning opportunities. This series was extremely difficult to predict as consistency was a problem for both teams. At this point, an argument could be made for both teams to win.

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How a call from Dwyane Wade inspired Jimmy Butler's massive Game 6 vs Celtics

Jimmy Butler received a call from Dwyane Wade before Game 6, which inspired a great performance and conjured up memories of the 2012 LeBron James game. (Author: Gardener)

DwyaneJ. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Jimmy Butler had a chat in the Miami Heat locker room on Friday before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The topic revolved around what Butler had to do against the Boston Celtics. We need 50 tonight," Tucker said, breaking the story to reporters. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. He posted a playoff career-high 47 points and added nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block in Miami's 111-103 win over Boston, forcing a Game 7 in Miami on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). "Whatever it takes, to get a W, that's what I'm trying to do.” @JimmyButler: 47 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals in Game 6 win pic.twitter.com/dVp0LDLxxF - NBA (@NBA) May 28 2022 Indeed, the Celtics missed a great opportunity to win at home East and go to the NBA Finals. It wasn't the Celtics giving away the game or the umpires backing the heat. "Jimmy just showed his will to compete tonight," said Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. The performance was Butler's fourth 40-point game of the 2022 playoffs and second game with at least 40 in that series. Butler barely had 20 points in the previous three games: 13, six and eight t and he missed the second half of Game 3 with inflammation of the right knee. Nothing in the last three games indicated this was coming, including his 4-on-8 3-point shooting as he entered the game only 2-on-12 on 3s in the streak. "Rest, ice, massage, all that good stuff," Butler said of his regime between games. "D-Wade never hits me until his voice is really, really needed," Butler said. Let me just go out there and keep building on that legacy and make sure we win.” Butler is a player who will do anything to win. "I want to win. I want to play real basketball," he said. “I will do whatever my team and my teammates ask of me. If it's a goal, if it's a pass, if it's a guard — whatever it takes to get a dub (win) I'm trying to do was his goal. He made two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the paint. He made 24 of Miami's 29 points in the first quarter through scoring and assists. "Just getting his intensity from the start wasn't there," said Celtic coach Ime Udoka. "He put his head down, came to the basket, way too many easy shots or close range layups and just a poor defense on our part against him , when we've been really good in the past and understood that he's going to come out and put it on his shoulders and we didn't make it -for-4 from the foul line. It was an impressive win for the Heat as Tyler Herro (strained left groin) missed his third straight game.Butler and Kyle Lowry isn't 100% and the Celtics went 97-94 ahead, remaining 4:43 in the fourth quarter.Jimmy Butler recorded his second 40-point game Game of the series and his fourth of the postseason. The Garden rocked and you weren't alone if you thought this was the end for the Heat en route to the Celtics. Butler and the Heat weren't done. A Butler and - 1 took Miami to 102-99 and a desperation 3 on an in-bounds pass with the shot clock about to expire gave the Heat a 107-101 lead. His two free throws with 10.9 seconds left made it 109-103. "Sometimes you just need your best players and your man to make plays," said Spoelstra. When we really needed it when their defense was reinforced as the game got to four, six, he found a way to get us a really important bucket in that arena. Ten years ago, LeBron James had 45 points and 15 rebounds as a heat force and eventually won Game 7 in the Conference Finals. "To make it on that stage, Game 6, win or go home, do or die, I wouldn't want to put her with anyone other than this guy," Lowry said. But does Butler have anything left to give when it comes to a finals appearance? "He'll be able to muster whatever he needs to muster," Spoelstra said, "to prepare for this great opportunity on Sunday." This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Like a Call from Dwyane Wade Jimmy Butler's Big Game 6 vs Celtics inspired

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What odds makers predict for Celtics-Heat Game 7

The Celtics are slight favorites to win Game 7 despite their Game 6 loss. Read more at Boston.com. (Author: Gardener)

Celtics-Heat Game 7The Celtics will play in an NBA-record 35th Game 7 on Sunday after losing to the Heat in Game 6, with Game 7 determining who advances to the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston had a chance to grab their Finals ticket on Friday night but lost 111-103 and forced Sunday's game in Miami. While losing Game 6 may feel devastating to many fans, the Celtics are actually 2.5-point favorites to win Game 7 at DraftKings Sportsbook. A road team being the favorite in Game 7 is pretty rare. According to The Action Network's Matt Moore, Sunday's seventh game will mark the third time in the last 20 seasons that the road team has been favored for a seventh game. The other two times were when the Warriors were favored against the Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference Finals (Golden State won, 101-92, defeated a Houston team that was without Chris Paul and missed 27 straight 3-pointers) and 2015, when the Clippers were favored against the Rockets (Houston won that one to overcome a 3-1 lead in the series). They are yet to lose straight games and have a 6-2 record in this playoff run and won their last two games in Miami. Not only did the Celtics do their business on the road during the playoffs, but they've been pretty dominant throughout the season. Boston has a plus 7.49 point differential in road games (regular and post) this season, which is the fourth-best mark in NBA history, according to Celtics radio announcer Sean Grande. Most of that dominance has come in their last 29 away games, where the Celtics have gone over Grande 22-7 by a plus 12.4 point difference. Away teams are only 34-111 all-time in Game 7. The Celtics have not won a Road Game 7 and lost their last four Road Game 7s since the 1974 NBA Finals against the Bucks. Game 7 road teams actually have a winning record over the past two postseasons (3-2), with the most recent win coming from the Mavericks, who dominated the Suns in early May. The Game 7 favorites have also been 38-18 in Game 7 since 2005, according to BetMGM's John Ewing. The overall score for Sunday's game is 196 at DraftKings Sportsbook. The over went 4-2 so far this series, but in games 4 and 5 the score fell significantly short. Looking at player props, Jayson Tatum's lines are set at 28.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists on DraftKings. Tatum averaged 24.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists in the first six games of the series. He's had 28 or more points three times, has had 8 or more rebounds four times, and has had 6 or more assists twice in the streak so far. In four career Game 7s, Tatum averaged 24 points, 5.3 assists, and 7.8 rebounds. After his dominant performance in Game 6, Jimmy Butler's lines for Game 7 are set at 28.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Butler has averaged 24 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists so far this streak. Butler's has had 29 points or more on at least three occasions this season, has had eight or more rebounds twice, and has given out five or more assists twice. He's played in just two Game 7s in his 11-year career, averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in those games. Jaylen Brown's lines are slightly lower than Tatum and Butler's. DraftKings has Brown's lines set at 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Brown has averaged 24.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists in conference finals so far. He's scored at least 25 points twice, had at least seven rebounds four times, and dished out at least three assists three times in the series. In five career Game 7s, Brown averaged 12.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists. Brown's averages are a bit skewed because he came off the bench in his first career 7 game as a rookie and left in his second 7 game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. If the odds makers are correct, the Larry Bird MVP is very likely to be won by either Tatum or Butler, with the awards likely going to the team that wins Game 7. Butler is not far behind at +125 odds.

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How a call from Dwyane Wade inspired Jimmy Butler's massive Game 6 vs Celtics

Jimmy Butler received a call from Dwyane Wade before Game 6, which inspired a great performance and conjured up memories of the 2012 LeBron James game. (Author: Gardener)

DwyaneJ. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Jimmy Butler had a chat in the Miami Heat locker room on Friday before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The topic revolved around what Butler had to do against the Boston Celtics. We need 50 tonight," Tucker said, breaking the story to reporters. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. He posted a playoff career-high 47 points and added nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block in Miami's 111-103 win over Boston, forcing a Game 7 in Miami on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). "Whatever it takes, to get a W, that's what I'm trying to do.” @JimmyButler: 47 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals in Game 6 win pic.twitter.com/dVp0LDLxxF - NBA (@NBA) May 28 2022 Indeed, the Celtics missed a great opportunity to win at home East and go to the NBA Finals. It wasn't the Celtics giving away the game or the umpires backing the heat. "Jimmy just showed his will to compete tonight," said Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. The performance was Butler's fourth 40-point game of the 2022 playoffs and second game with at least 40 in that series. Butler barely had 20 points in the previous three games: 13, six and eight t and he missed the second half of Game 3 with inflammation of the right knee. Nothing in the last three games indicated this was coming, including his 4-on-8 3-point shooting as he entered the game only 2-on-12 on 3s in the streak. "Rest, ice, massage, all that good stuff," Butler said of his regime between games. "D-Wade never hits me until his voice is really, really needed," Butler said. Let me just go out there and keep building on that legacy and make sure we win.” Butler is a player who will do anything to win. "I want to win. I want to play real basketball," he said. “I will do whatever my team and my teammates ask of me. If it's a goal, if it's a pass, if it's a guard — whatever it takes to get a dub (win) I'm trying to do was his goal. He made two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the paint. He made 24 of Miami's 29 points in the first quarter through scoring and assists. "Just getting his intensity from the start wasn't there," said Celtic coach Ime Udoka. "He put his head down, came to the basket, way too many easy shots or close range layups and just a poor defense on our part against him , when we've been really good in the past and understood that he's going to come out and put it on his shoulders and we didn't make it -for-4 from the foul line. It was an impressive win for the Heat as Tyler Herro (strained left groin) missed his third straight game.Butler and Kyle Lowry is not 100% and the Celtics went 97-94 up 97-94 with 4:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.Jimmy Butler recorded his second 40- Points game of the series and his fourth of the postseason The Garden rocked and you weren't alone if you thought this was the end for the Heat en route to the Celtics Butler and the Heat weren't done yet A B utler and -1 put Miami at 102-99 and a Desperate 3 on an in-bounds pass with the shot clock about to expire gave the Heat a 107-101 lead. His two free throws with 10.9 seconds left made it 109-103. "Sometimes you just need your best players and your man to make plays," said Spoelstra. When we really needed it when their defense was reinforced as the game got to four, six, he found a way to get us a really important bucket in that arena. Ten years ago, LeBron James had 45 points and 15 rebounds as a heat force and eventually won Game 7 in the Conference Finals. "To make it on that stage, Game 6, win or go home, do or die, I wouldn't want to put her with anyone other than this guy," Lowry said. But does Butler have anything left to give when it comes to a finals appearance? "He'll be able to muster whatever he needs to muster," Spoelstra said, "to prepare for this great opportunity on Sunday." This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Like a Call from Dwyane Wade Jimmy Butler's Big Game 6 vs Celtics inspired

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The Celtics can't afford to carry over Jaylen Brown's second-half slump in Game 6 to Game 7

Brown scored 20 points in the Heat's relentless 111-103 series win on Friday night at the Garden, but only two came in the second half. (Author: Gardener)

Jaylen Brown'sA second-half slump by Jaylen Brown played a big part in Miami's Game 6 win on Friday. Can he recover in Game 7 on Sunday? The Celtics will need Jaylen Brown to go big with the Heat in Game 7 of this grueling Eastern Conference Finals series. He might well make it - although they're still waiting for him to show up in the second half of Game 6. Brown scored 20 points in Heat's relentless 111-103 streak that tied the win at the Garden on Friday night, but only 2 came in the second half. He didn't hit a single bucket and only attempted two shots after the break. His only pair of points of the second half came on free throws with just under eight minutes to go to cut Miami's lead to 89-87. At this point, it was both teams game to win. A few minutes later, the Heat took control and the Celtics faded in part as Brown missed two free throws. With 2:06 hours remaining and a 99-99 tie, thanks in large part to an exceptional performance from Derrick White (22 points, 4 of 5 from 3-point territory), Brown went to the line to give the Celtics the chance give the lead. Brown can be a fickle free throw taker with his slow and methodical free throw, but he had made his first seven attempts up to that point and the Celtics as a team had missed just one. Jimmy Butler, who was in full beast mode in Game 5 (47 points) after limping in Game 5, followed up the misses with a conventional 3-point play at the other end and the Heat iced their win at the foul line . The Heat - and Jimmy Butler - heard all the doubters. That's one of the reasons Miami was able to force a Game 7. If the Celtics win that series, losing Game 6 will be remembered as a blip en route to the Finals. Should they lose Sunday night in Miami, it will go down as an unfortunate playoff loss of all time. Brown afterwards sounded determined the Celtics would get together in Game 7 and there is reason to believe they will. They're 6-2 going this postseason and have the fresh memory of beating defending champion Bucks in Game 6 in the previous round on their turf before winning the series at the Garden. And the road team has already won four times in this wild series. “Of course it hurt to lose that game on our home ground, but we have to have short-term memory [loss]. So we have to be ready and almost forget the last game and have a great mentality. “It was definitely an ugly game. We have to go out next game. They forced a Game 7, so now we have to get out there and do what we do best.” Playing Game 7 in Miami shouldn't worry Brown, who gave the Celtics 25 points in their 93-80 game win 5 led. And he had some standout moments in the first half of Game 6, when he and Jayson Tatum combined for 36 points of the Celtics' 46 points before the break. In an approximately 2½ minute span beginning around the four minute mark in the second quarter, Brown knocked down two pull-up jumpers, hit on a putback of his own miss, converted a conventional 3-point play and hit two others free throws , and scored two steals as the Celtics went from behind (40-35) to ahead (46-42). But Butler and the Heat had a counterpunch for every Celtics jab. And Brown -- and neither did Tatum, who finished with 30 points but with just 12 shots, five in the second half -- failed to produce in their usual high-volume fashion. “I definitely felt like I was taking care of the ball, finding my spots to drive and stuff like that, and whether the contact was there or not, I just wasn't making enough plays on the track ' said Brown, who had five assists but also four turnovers. “They started doubling, we made some proper plays but we definitely need to find more ways to be aggressive in the next game. It's a fine line to let the game come your way and be almost aggressive.” The Celtics didn't get much help from their supporting cast other than White. Marcus Smart took 15 team-high shots, which isn't what you want, and only made four. Grant Williams scored 2 points and barked at the umpires so hard you'd think he was the acting head of the NBA. Robert Williams III scored 12 points and made brilliant breakouts, but coach Ime Udoka veered away from him in the fourth quarter. So there's no getting around it: While the Warriors are already waiting for the East winner in the finals, the Celtics missed a golden opportunity on Friday. We'll know Sunday night if it's something they'll always lament or another instance of the Celtics giving themselves a hard time before finally coming through. Brown and Tatum weren't themselves in the second half on Friday.

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What the Celtics can take away from past playoff experiences for Game 7 vs. Heat

BOSTON — For all of the Celtics' playoff runs, highlights, moments and more, the NBA Finals remains an elusive dream. The C's haven't been on the biggest stage in basketball since 2010, which equates to a lifetime in NBA years. (Author: Gardener)

Game 7BOSTON — For all of the Celtics' playoff runs, highlights, moments and more, the NBA Finals remains an elusive dream. The C's haven't been on the biggest stage in basketball since 2010, which equates to a lifetime in NBA years. This current Celtics core — Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and more — has the playoff experience that can make other franchises blush. But they still haven't made it to the final and the boys know it. But the Celtics have some advantages ahead of their Game 7 showdown against the Heat at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the FTX Arena. The Cs are hardened through the hard times; You can apply these playoff lessons to Game 7. And the winner-takes-all game is just their final test to get into this dodgy final round of the playoffs. "I just need to breathe," Brown said. They don't want to put themselves under unnecessary pressure and come and be ready to play basketball. The Celtics will play their second Game 7 of the postseason; The first instance came when they defeated the Bucks in the second round. So there is already a natural carryover on Sunday. The C's are also yet to get past the finals of the conference, no matter who is the No. 1 option or the core of the team. The Celtics have beaten the Heat twice so far in Miami, and they said they can win one final time in Game 7. However, it will require more discipline than they showed in Game 6. But the Celtics didn't execute when they needed it most. While the Heat put down many silencing, hard shots on Friday, the Celtics again played carelessly. Boston coach Ime Udoka said whenever they put together a run to pressure Miami, the Celtics then stumbled into more errors and another deficit. "We understand the severity of the game that's at stake," Brown said. “We just have to come out and play Celtic basketball. We have a great chance and we missed the ball. On Sunday we have another opportunity. Of course, the Celtics still have a chance to rewrite the franchise's recent history. But the reality is the Celtics have still not been in the Finals since 2010 and their only title since the 1980s came in 2008. That starts with Game 7 on Sunday where everyone in the game knows the greatness that comes with platforming. "It's no secret," Tatum said. “It's Game 7, the journey to the NBA Finals, the stakes are high. We'll know that when we go into the game.” The Celtics will boast of urgency in Game 7 – they've done that all postseason. When they absolutely had to win a game, wins followed. It happened in the second round against the Bucks and in the East Finals against the Heat. It might be a crazy way to approach the playoffs, but it worked out well for the Cs. But that leaves them in a dangerous spot where the Heat could turn hot for another game and send the Celtics into the offseason. Similar to Game 6. Regardless of how the Celtics react, is once again the defining moment. This season's track record shows the Cs have enough juice to make it over the hump to the finals. Game 7 pits two forces against each other, pitting the victors in the NBA Finals against the dormant Warriors. The Celtics hope they are, although anything can happen in a one-game sample size. "We know we can go there and win," said Udoka. “But we just have to make it harder than it is and at times it feels like we're doing that, not taking advantage of what's ahead and overall just sloppy basketball on both ends.

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Derrick White self-deprecates Celtics' Game 7 chances after Game 6 loss

Derrick White and the Celtics head into Game 7 with confidence even after a potentially draining Game 6 loss. Read more on Boston.com. (Author: Gardener)

Derrick WhiteFriday night was to be a crowning moment for the Celtics — a night they would reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years, topped by a ceremony where one of them would win the first-ever Larry Bird MVP trophy. Instead, Boston is packing its bags to fly to South Beach to play Miami in a win-or-go home Game 7 on Sunday. The Celtics fell into the heat in Game 6 on Friday, 111-103, missing an opportunity to win the Eastern Conference title at home. They also screwed up what was arguably the best game they got from Derrick White. The backup guard, who joined Boston after a trade from San Antonio in February, scored 22 points (the most he's scored since joining the Celtics) on 7-of-14 shooting, which was 4-of-7-3 -Pointers and made a tie for a team high five assists. White admitted there was some disappointment with the Celtics after the game. "Just kind of frustrated overall but rest, learn from it, get on that plane and fly to Miami and win," White said when asked about the mood in the locker room after the game. With Friday's loss, the Celtics will go 7 in a game for a second straight series. And for the second straight series, it feels like the Celtics could have avoided ending up on a win-or-go-home spot. White realized that after the Game 6 loss. "Yeah, I mean, we're frustrated, but if it were easy, we wouldn't be," White said. “We're going to get on that plane, fly to Miami and try to get the big win in Game 7. We've been here before and have a lot of confidence in our group.” The Game 6 loss could have been another chapter in the Celtics' book of how they made the playoffs harder than they should have been. Their star player Jayson Tatum was responsible for seven of those, giving the Heat four passes in the last quarter. Tatum scored 30 points in Game 6 with an efficient 9-of-12 shooting. But in addition to Tatum turning the ball over, Miami's defense also limited the number of shots Tatum fired in the fourth quarter. Tatum had just one shot, a driver floater he made with 1:08 left, in the fourth. Although Tatum was kept in check at the end of Game 6, his confidence that the Celtics can win Game 7 remains high. 10,” Tatum said when asked about his confidence the Celtics would win Game 7. You know, it's the last game. It's a 10 out of 10 in my confidence level and the group. It's Game 7, the journey to the NBA Finals, the stakes are high," Tatum added. We know how much it means for everyone.” Despite what could be a very disappointing loss, Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes there is enough evidence his team can take home a Game 7 win against the Heat. "We obviously won the final game, Game 7 [against Milwaukee], and for us we won two in Miami, so that's the positive side of it," said Udoka. "We know we can go there and win." Udoka also made the same realization as White. "But we just have to make it harder than it is, and at times it feels like we're not taking advantage of what's ahead and overall just sloppy basketball at both ends," Udoka said. The Celtics have won their last two games in Miami, and they've done so in decisive fashion, with both wins coming in double digits. Celtics star Jaylen Brown, who scored 20 points in Game 6, admitted it "pained to lose on our home ground." But like every other Celtic speaking out after Friday's loss, he remained confident they will be the Eastern Conference champions. You have to prepare, like you said, prepare mentally, but come into the game loose, come into the game free, come into the game with a clear mind," Brown said. We understand the seriousness of the game that is at stake. We just gotta get out there and play Celtic basketball tonight. We have a great chance and we missed the ball. “We still have a chance on Sunday. As Brown said, Sunday will give the Celtics another opportunity for the crowning glory they've been looking for. If they miss that opportunity, their remarkable turnaround in the season will come to an end, and for the second time in four seasons, the Celtics will fall a game short of the NBA Finals.

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