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On the less-desirable route, after the Celtics turned the tide in abrupt fashion last week, the Heat could become the first team ever to blow a 3-0 playoff series advantage.
On the route to glory, the Heat would pull a series they once commanded out of the fire to become the second eighth-seeded team ever to reach the championship finals.
Deep breaths, Heat fans. Deep breaths.
We’ll get through this together. The Heat will make history tonight — one way or the other. The only guarantee is that everyone involved will have a raging case of the lemon booty until we find out which chapter of Heat lore will be written.
Home Away From Home
Game 7 of the Heat-Celtics heavyweight bout is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 29.
The good news? Miami is 2-1 in Boston in this series. The bad news? The loss was a start-to-finish stomping in Game 5, post-Celtics revival.
The hapless Celtics team the Heat beat in Games 1 and 2 is long gone — but then again, this may be the first time in the series the pressure has been equally distributed between the two teams. To come out of the gate strong, the Heat will have to shake off the Celtics’ seemingly surreal buzzer-beating Game 6 win to equalize the series, which left many fans in Miami curled in a fetal position.
Expect a Thunderdome atmosphere in Boston tonight. The Celtics might throw the Heat a curveball by trotting out members of the 2004 Red Sox squad that pulled off its own 3-0 comeback against the New York Yankees to head to the World Series and break the Curse of the Bambino.
The NBA playoffs have seen 150 instances where a team has gone up 3-0, as did the Heat. Not once has a team in the Celtics’ position come back to win four in a row and claim the series.
As for Cinderella playoff runs, only the New York Knicks have made the NBA Finals as an eight seed. The Knickerbockers accomplished the feat during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season under head coach Jeff Van Gundy. They ultimately fell to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1 in the NBA championship.
By the Numbers: Analytics Favor Boston
The Heat have been on an uphill climb against sports-forecasting departments all postseason, and it’s no different going into Game 7. According to just about any prediction, the Heat are underdogs to pull out Game 7 and clinch a trip to the NBA Finals.
Below is just a sampling of the calculator carnage facing Miami ahead of tonight’s big game:
But the analytics never gave the Heat a shot, and then the team took a 3-0 lead. Either the number crunchers are just that smart, or, like the rest of us, they simply shot out what seems likely and threw their hands in the air when the prediction didn’t play out.
One element the computers can’t quantify is the Heat’s emotional drive to overcome, propelled by Jimmy Butler, who has yet to win an NBA championship in his 12-year career. Butler and the Heat made it to the finals in 2020 but fell to the Lakers in six games; the last championship the team won dates back to 2013 amid the LeBron James heyday.
Will the incalculable X-factor be enough to put the team on the road to victory? We’ll find out tonight when Miami meets its destiny.
Good luck, Miami Heat. And may the odds never be in your favor.