Just a few days ago, everyone’s going gaga over the Miami Heat. They were the No. 8 seed, up 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics, the only team to be top five in points and points allowed per game this season. Before that, they also booted the scrappy New York Knicks in six games and the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round.
Now, all of that means absolutely nothing. The Heat have kept stumbling and allowed the Celtics to tie the series, 3-3, and completely steal every ounce of momentum. Even worse, Game 7 is in Boston.
What also amped the frustration was how close they were to surviving an ugly performance to finally clinch the series. The Heat were trailing, 100-91, with only 2:45 left before they managed to cut it to 102-100 in the closing seconds, followed by Jimmy Butler drawing an Al Horford foul from the three-point line. Butler proceeded to sink all three free-throws to put them up by one, 103-102, with only three ticks left.
Unfortunately for Miami, the worst thing that could’ve happened to them came to be:
Derrick White is far from a scrub as he has always been a solid two-way guard, but the Heat and its fans will not forget that name now.
The heartbreak will be up there New York Knicks legend Allan Houston getting that floater to drop in the 1999 first-round series, which had the then-No. 1 seed Heat blowing a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series to a No. 8. The bitter taste may also top what they felt from LeBron James’s meltdown in the 2011 NBA finals.
Injuries to Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, as well as Gabe Vincent sitting out Game 5 due to a sprained ankle were all disadvantages to Miami, but ultimately, those are sorry excuses. Regardless of who’s unavailable, you don’t go up 3-0 in a series and let the opposition go in and tie it, especially when you know that the series finale will be in the other team’s turf.
The Heat can only blame themselves. They were lazy in Game 4, got easily beat in Game 5, and were heavily pressured in Game 6 because of it, as evident in playing from behind all game despite being at home (not that I’m discrediting Boston’s fine play on both ends). It didn’t help that Miami All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined to shoot a dreadful 9-for-37 from the floor. Come to think of it, they were lucky the game was that close.
Does the Heat have the chance in Game 7?
As we’ve seen time and time again, anything can happen in a do-or-die game, and you can’t underestimate any team these days, so the short answer is “yes.”
Considering the flow of the series, though, we all know that’s the slimmest of chances. The Celtics have worked their butt off to recover from a catastrophic situation, one that could’ve gotten the core broken up and head coach Joe Mazulla fired, so now, everything’s lined up for them to achieve what no NBA team has ever done, and it’s served on a shiny golden platter. They are the fourth team in league history to force a Game 7 after going down 0-3 (1951 New York Knicks, 1994 Denver Nuggets, and 2003 Portland Trail Blazers), but unlike all three, they will be in front of their fans.
But yeah, in the end, let’s just hope for a classic win-or-go-home type of battle, and not like the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks from last year’s playoffs.