Erik Spoelstra didn’t even have to finish the sentence. The Miami Heat coach was speaking in the locker room after a season-extending victory in Boston, players and staff surrounding him in a semicircle.
“There aren’t two better words,” Spoelstra said.
“Game 7,” about half a dozen people responded in unison.
Game 7, for a place in the NBA Finals. Either the Heat or the Boston Celtics will become Eastern Conference champions on Sunday night, when they finally wrap up their series and see which club will face the Golden State Warriors in the title round.
It will be the second Game 7 between the teams; the other was in 2012, when the Heat beat the Celtics 101-88 to win that year’s Eastern title.
“Look, we’re here,” Spoelstra said after Miami fended off elimination with a111-103 win at Bostonon Friday night, thanks to a 47-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist, four-steal effort from Jimmy Butler. “This is how it should be with these two teams. He should have gone seven games.”
Miami has home-field advantage going into the finale, though home-court hasn’t meant anything in this series. The Heat went 2-1 in Boston, the Celtics are 2-1 in Miami so far with two wins for a combined 38 points and Boston’s 6-2 road record is best ever. teams in this season’s playoffs.
And that makes the Celtics brimming with confidence, even though visiting teams are 34-110 all-time, a .236 winning percentage, going into Game 7.
“Scale from 1 to 10? Ten. I mean, it shouldn’t be less than that, right? Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said when asked how confident he is that Boston can win the series on Miami’s home court. “You know, it’s the last game. That’s all it is."
Injuries have been a major storyline in the series, and that continues to be the case on Sunday.
Butler has been dealing with knee issues and sprained an ankle late in Game 6, though he still put up arguably the best game of his career. Kyle Lowry and Max Strus, who had big rebounds on Friday after posting a combined zero points in Game 5, still have hamstring issues. For Boston, Marcus Smart’s ankle has been problematic, Robert Williams III’s knee is an open question and Jaylen Brown banged his knee on a series in Game 5, though he finished the game with no obvious ill effects.
“This time of year, no one is 100% healthy, on both sides,” said PJ Tucker of Miami. “I’m sure they have a bunch of guys as well, just trying to figure it out and give what they can. Try to win. That is all. You can’t take back these days. It’s living in the moment, trying to do what you can.”
The Heat could get a key piece back: Tyler Herro, who has been sidelined for the past three games with a groin strain, will try to work the floor Sunday with hopes of playing in Game 7.
“For us, it’s just another chance,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Saturday. “You put yourself in this position, going up 3-2, to have two games to win one. And so, as much as he would love to end it on his home court, we’ve had ups and downs in the series and because of that that’s where he’s at now. … It’s just another chance and obviously we see the big picture ahead ".
The Celtics last went to the NBA Finals in 2010. This is their fifth trip to the East finals since then, and Friday’s loss left them 0-5 in possible East deciders in that span.
“We have to go out and play, go out and respond,” Brown said. “Back is on the wall, Game 7, loser goes home. We have to go out there and find a way to win.”
From Miami’s perspective, the seeds began to be planted moments after Game 5.The Celtics had just won in Miami to take a 3-2 series lead,and Spoelstra walked into a locker room defeated to set the goal. He repeated it, over and over again.
“Bring this back on the 29th,” Spoelstra said.
The 29th is Sunday.
They brought it back. Game 7 awaits.
"There’s nothing like a Game 7"Spoelstra said. “And I’m really excited that we can all experience that together.”
The NBA fined Miami $25,000 on Saturday for violating league rules regarding decorum on the team bench. The league said that “on multiple occasions, multiple players stood for an extended period in the Miami team bench area, walked away from the team bench and were on, trespassing or entering the field during game action. live” during Game 6 in Boston.