By Jay Webster
It’s come down to this.
The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat have become a best-of-one series, with Game 7 playing out on Saturday night in Miami.
And what a series it’s been. Many people thought the aging Celtics would never get this far against the favoured Heat, especially considering how much difficulty they had putting away the underdog 76ers in the previous round.
Then Boston promptly dug a big hole for themselves by losing the first two games of the series in Miami.
But the Celtics went back home to Boston and took two-hard fought games, including a 93-91 overtime win in Game 4 to even the series.
They followed that up by stunning the basketball world with an incredible 94-90 slugfest in Miami. Suddenly, heading back to Boston for Game 6, it was the Celtics’ series to lose, and all of the old questions about the Heats’ ability to close out games were being asked once again.
But LeBron James was on a mission Thursday night on Boston’s fabled parquet hardwood, putting the Heat on his back and putting in one of the greatest playoff displays in NBA history. King James was on fire, hitting 12 of 14 shots for 30 points in the first half alone, as the Heat led 55-42 at the half.
The fast start proved to be too much for the Celtic’s tired legs, and there was no need to worry about wilting under the pressure in the game’s closing moments. When the dust settled, the scoreboard read 98-79, and the Celtics had let a monumental opportunity to close Miami out slip through their fingers.
So now it’s back to South Beach for the series decider on Saturday. The consensus is the Celtics are toast. The oddsmakers have the Heat as eight-point favourites. In fairness, the Celtics looked dead on their feet in Game 6, despite the opportunity to close out the series. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t be given much of a chance now.
The thing is, the Celtics have made a living out of proving people wrong this post-season, and if they can keep the game close, James and the Heat will still have to put their game-closing demons to bed.
The Heat should win. That’s why they are favoured. I’m not sure it will be easy, though, and I might just be tempted by that juicy eight-point spread.
One thing is for sure, I can’t wait. This is what the NBA Playoffs are all about.