MIAMI – Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra reminded everyone after the Heat’s win on Friday in Boston what the best two words in professional sports are.
During Sunday morning’s shootaround, as his players prepared for tonight’s series-deciding game of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was clear they were ready for the spotlight and up for the challenge.
“This is a day you live for,” said Heat guard Max Strus. “Game 7 as a basketball player, this is what you dream of. Game 7 and I can’t wait for tonight.”
Strus isn’t the only one pumped for the game.
FTX Arena in Downtown Miami will soon feature a packed house of white-wearing, ravenous Heat fans hoping to see Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and the rest of the never-say-die crew defend their homecourt and propel the franchise to its seventh appearance in NBA Finals.
“Mentally, you just have to prepare for everything,” said Adebayo. “Everyone’s jacked up and excited, and we’re in front of our home crowd, too.”
So far, the six games of the Eastern Final against the Boston Celtics have been an emotional seesaw with high highs and low lows for both squads.
Most recently, the Heat reached their highest point of the postseason thanks to a legendary performance by Butler in Game 6.
His 47 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and a block helped save Miami’s season and stretch the series to a deciding seventh game.
The Heat were massive underdogs in Game 6, with few nationally giving them a chance. Boston again is favored in Game 7, though this time by only three points, five less than the previous game.
Don’t expect that to bother Spoelstra or his players. After finishing the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Heat are well aware they’ve earned the opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals on their home floor.
“It’s really going to come down to who you are, what are your habits, what’s your trust level,” Spoelstra said. “Can you do that at these moments of truth, and can you do that more than they can do that.”
After six games of throwing haymakers at one another, the Heat and Celtics both know what their opponent is capable of.
Game 7 could very easily come down to one key play or one key moment, a chance for someone to shine under some of the brightest lights in professional sports.
The winner will earn a trip to the west coast and a date in the Finals with the Golden State Warriors.
But first, one final battle in the east.
A battle that Strus is asking the Heat faithful, who provide one of the loudest home court advantages in the NBA, not to be fashionably late for.
“Hopefully you guys are on time,” he said. “We’re going to need you. We’re going to need that energy and we’re going to feed off you guys.”