WE PARTY LIKE IT’S 1993 IN THIS.
The Miami Heat had plenty reason to dance and celebrate after their 101-88 Game 7 victory.
It’s what they deserve for a timeless classic of a Game 7 where they ended up defeating the Boston Celtics behind a masterful fourth quarter where they held a 28-15 advantage. That effort was a necessity as the two squads went at it in a barfight for the first 36 minutes.
Miami will now play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, which begin this Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Area. In case you forgot, the format is 2-3-2 and not the 2-2-1-1-1 you’ve been seeing throughout the playoffs. Yes, it is absolutely idiotic.
The Celtics held as much as an 11-point lead in the second quarter and went into the half with a seven-point lead, but it was upended by an energized Heat team that came out in the second half. Miami outscored Boston 55-35 in the second half following a turnover-plagued first half.
The ten turnovers Miami committed in the first half made it look like Game 7 was going to be a repeat of Game 5. Careless passes that could have been avoided, Dwyane Wade and the role players not showing up and LeBron James seemingly doing everything in the first 24 minutes had this game looking light it would be a nightmare for the Heat.
Erik Spoelstra must have belted out one hell of a sermon during halftime, because his team came out ready to break the hip of each and every geriatric on the Celtics.
The Heat outscored the Celtics 27-20 in the third quarter to send it to the fourth quarter in a tied game. It literally doesn’t get better than that. A Game 7 that will send one lucky team to the Finals that will be determined in one 12-minute stretch. Everything that happened prior to then means nothing, as the winner would be determined with one hell of a fourth quarter.
Boston attempted to keep up with Miami. They really did. However, they were on extremely tired legs. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were getting to the rim as easy as I’ve seen in this series, Chris Bosh hit two crucial three-pointers and the Heat’s defense forced Boston into contested difficult jumpers that could no longer fall.
In the end, it was the Heat outscoring the 2008 NBA champions by 13 points in the most significant quarter of the ‘Big Three’ era. All the criticizing and scrutiny this team has received about closing out games and freezing in big moments mean diddly dick right about now after an incredible fourth quarter by every member of the team in white.
Going against one of the most experienced, intelligent and toughest teams in the NBA in a decisive fourth quarter, the Heat showed no fear. They knew what was at stake and they lived up to the moment by having the best 12-minute stretch of basketball I’ve seen in the past two years from this team. Miami played aggressive and smart, even when they had a decent sized league, and continued to keep up the pressure until time finally ran out.
I said after Game 5 the team who wins is the team who wanted it more. It’s obvious to tell who wanted it more. As incredible as the Celtics have been all series, it was the Heat who wanted that Finals berth. As convincing as they were, we still had to think it was impossible a team with so much at stake would lay down and die in the biggest series of their career’s.
Outside of Wade and Haslem’s 2006 NBA Finals appearance, this was the biggest series for each and every player or coach of their careers. If the Heat are the one’s losing Game 7, the talk begins. Nobody likes the talk because it usually involves farfetched rumors, ridiculous trades and the degradation of future Hall of Famers who only deserve the utmost respect.
The scariest part of that talk is it holds more water than it ever did. The talk is still ridiculous, but it has some viability to it. The Heat losing in the NBA Finals is one thing, but in the Eastern conference finals to an aged Boston Celtics team? Forget using Chris Bosh’s injury as an excuse, the Heat should have been able to win this without him they would say.
Fortunately for the sake of all of our sanity, the Heat won and we can now move on to the NBA Finals, a place the Heat want to forget about, but can’t. They won’t be taking on the Dallas Mavericks this team, but rather a young and athletic Oklahoma City Thunder team that can score bunches of points in no time at all.
We’ll get to that. For now, can we just revel in what we just saw in Game 7? Can we please speak of the huge perimeter boosts provided by Shane Battier and Chris Bosh? Yet another incredible second half by Dwyane Wade? Is it at all possible to just sit here for a moment and attempt to recollect what we just saw LeBron James do not just in Game 7, but in this series overall?
ESPN will say no. I say yes. You have to live in moments like these. In the first Game 7 of the ‘Big Three’ era, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each played an enormous and integral role in the collapse of the Boston Celtics dynasty and the creation of a new world order that will have the Miami Heat legitimately as the team to beat for years to come.
LeBron James finished with 31 points, 12 boards and two assists. While his shooting wasn’t all that terrific (9-of-21 from the field, 1-of-5 from deep and 12-of-17 from the foul line), he made up for it when it counted with a tremendous fourth quarter where he scored 11 points. You know? Because he isn’t clutch at all, right?
Dwyane Wade struggled early on, but finished with a solid 23 points, six boards and six assists. He, too, played a key role in wearing down the Celtics late in the game behind some incredible shots, a dunk here and an unbelievable and-1 there. Still, you would have really liked to see perform well in the first half.
And Chris Bosh? Take a good look, Heat fans, because he’s the reason why Miami is going to the NBA Finals.
Coming off the bench for the third consecutive game, Bosh finished with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with eight boards. His mid-range game was at its best and he even hit a career-high three three-pointers, including two huge corner three’s that allowed the Heat to stretch their lead midway through the fourth.
Bosh’s influence was huge, once again, as he constantly attracted the attention of the likes of Kevin Garnett and Ryan Hollins. With those two out of the paint, it allowed James and Wade to get to the rim, which led to high-percentage scores and free throws. He truly has been the catalyst and X-factor to the Heat winning the final two games of this drawn out series.
Miami ran a six-man rotation. Erik Spoelstra was quoted as saying, “nobody wanted to come out”. Wade, James, Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem all played at least 31 minutes, while Mike Miller, James Jones, Norris Cole and Juwan Howard were given four minutes or less of work.
It was all the Heat needed. They didn’t need another 45-15-5 from LeBron. What we saw in Game 7 wasn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Miami Heat basketball being played to its fullest potential. There was plenty of distributing, movement and players hitting the shots they’re supposed to make, including Shane Battier who had 12 points on four three-pointers.
As much as we’d all love to sit and dwell on that Game 7 for a few more days, we must get ourselves situated for the NBA Finals against a superior opponent in the Thunder, who are coming off a six-game series victory over a San Antonio Spurs that had won 20 games in a row.
It won’t be easy, but none of the great achievements in life are easy. That’s what makes them great.
Ball-crushing stats of the night:
- LeBron James averaged 34 points and 11 rebounds this series. Hide your kids, hide your wife…
- Miami only committed three turnovers in the second half, after giving up ten in the first.
- Chris Bosh has never made three three-pointers in a game…until last night.