Basketball Magazine

NBA Playoffs: Game 7 in South Beach

By Rosstalkssports @rosstalkssports


Here we are again. The Miami Heat are once again on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals. So today we take a look back at the last time these Heat was in this situation. This time just under a year ago the story line was that the Heatles may not be able to get it done. That maybe LeBron didn’t have it in him to carry the team to the championship, and that Erik Spoelstra was possibly coaching his last game(s) as head coach of the Miami Heat. 1


In 2012 the Heat were coming off of a game 5 loss at home, and as the losers of 3 straight games in the series were facing an elimination game 6 at the Garden in Boston. They were facing year two of failing to deliver on “not 1, not 2, not 3…”, and this time they weren’t even going to make it to the Finals. With all of the pressure and all of the uncertainty surrounding yet another offseason following LeBron being unable to deliver a championship with the most talented roster, the majority opinion was that LeBron would be crushed under the pressure and fail to show up. The same way he had the two previous years.


As we now know, 2012 was different. Somewhere between the trash talking and name calling something in LeBron snapped, and this became a major turning point not just in the series, but for the future of the league. I’m sure any NBA fan that watched that Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals can remember where they were when it happened. For example I was out to dinner at a sports bar with my significantly better half feeling far too comfortable in my belief that I would get my dream finals matchup where the Thunder, featuring KD and Harden (#1 and 3 on my favorite players list) would face off against the Celtics, featuring Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers (#2 on my favorite players/coaches list respectively).2 Needless to say, I left dinner in a very fowl mood because for the first time possibly ever LeBron came out in an attack mode that we had never seen from him before on the biggest stage. He scored 30 points in the first half alone and absolutely torched the Celtics in route to winning the game, effectively winning the series, and his first championship ring. 


The elimination game tonight is not like the ones the Heat faced last year. Last year the Heat was merely favored to win the series, this year it is expected. The Pacers aren’t a team of former champions with loads of big game experience trying to make one more championship run like the 2012 Celtics. No, the Pacers are the young upstart that no one has given a chance3 to win the series even as they show time and time again they are capable of exploiting the weaknesses of the Heat. With the win on Saturday the Pacers defeated the Heat for the 3rd time in 6 games (significant because the Heat had only lost 3 times in their last 45 games with LeBron James). Still,  very few people “in the know” would be willing to wager on the Pacers taking the  deciding 7th game. All of this is to say that LeBron and the Heat face a very different pressure tonight in South Beach than they faced in their elimination situation last year.


What should be more disconcerting to LeBron James and Heat fans is that this year LeBron is already playing at that level that fans (well, except for Skip Bayless) expect of him. Last year LeBron atleast knew that if he took his game to the next level he would be able to lead his team to victory. This year he is already playing at that level, but on far too many occasions his teammates haven’t followed behind him. While his play this series will all but absolve him of blame should the Heat falter tonight, there is a degree of comfort in knowing that your actions are the primary factor in shaping the outcome that LeBron won’t have this year as it will truly come down to him getting a modicum of help.


A year ago, in the back of his mind, LeBron knew that he would be the scapegoat if the Heat weren’t able to get past Boston. This year, barring a 2011 Finals like collapse, no one could possibly place blame on LeBron in the event that the Heat is eliminated tonight night4. Without the fear of accusation, will LeBron be able to deliver when it matters most?


In a league that is so fundamentally flawed with its secret “random” lottery and its at best dubious officiating, it is games like the one tonight that peak our collective interest as fans and keeps us coming back anyway. Heat v. Pacers game 7 tonight at 8:30ET? Can’t Wait!

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