May 28, 2023 | 10:59 p.m.
Miami guarantees a victory in Game 7. Boston is looking to complete an impossible comeback, to rewrite history instead of just being a footnote.
Either Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra will get Joe Namath-Mark Messier-type guarantees Monday at TD Garden or they’ll suffer the biggest choke in the annals of playoff basketball.
For many, Boston may have as much talent as any team in the league. But this Game 7 will not just be a question of talent but of temperament, of the ability to handle pressure. Boston hasn’t always been so good at home in these playoffs, but has given itself a golden opportunity to erase all that.
But it’s just a chance, nothing more, if they don’t finish the job.
The Red Sox are the only Major League Baseball team to overturn an 0-3 deficit – in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees en route to a World Series victory. No one has ever made it in the NBA, but the Celtics are one win away from Monday.
Of the 150 NBA teams that had tried, only three had even forced a Game 7; and all have failed on the road. Boston is on the brink, but chasms don’t matter.
“Oh, no, we’ve all talked about it. We are all aware that now is not the time to party. We haven’t accomplished anything,” Jayson Tatum said. “The work is far from over. They’re a great team (Heat), a very well trained team, and we have to be ready on Monday. It is not finished.
“The streak is not over. We still have a big game on Monday.
Injuries – the second in the league this season – have made this year difficult for the Heat, who had to fight during the play-in. The Celtics – talented, but inconsistent – made it difficult for themselves.
Throughout these playoffs, Boston gave away games for lack of focus. Yes, they’re 5-0 in playoff games, but such a gifted team shouldn’t have been repeatedly pushed to the limit by the shorthanded 76ers and Heat.
“It’s no worse than being down 0-3. It feels like you’ve been to hell and back. We feel like we can handle any adversity thrown at us,” Jaylen Brown said. “All of this means nothing if we don’t go out and do our best at home on Monday night.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like for Game 7. It’s going to be huge. The two best words in sports are ‘Game 7’.”
In fact, the top two are world champions. And after upsetting top-seeded Milwaukee and knocking out the Knicks, the eighth-seeded Heat had earned their chance to play for a title. Until they fumbled, allowing Derrick White’s tip with a split second to lose Game 6 on Saturday night in Miami.
It was in the same building that Heat star Ray Allen hit his iconic shot to beat San Antonio in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, forcing a culminating Game 7. Spurs got rid of that heartbreak of having the title snatched and played well, but fell in the end. Will the Heat suffer the same fate?
The Heat are big eight-point underdogs, and TNT’s Charles Barkley said, “There’s no one in America” who thinks Miami will win. But there will be a handful in the Heat locker room on Monday who will believe him.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get there, but we’re going up there and doing it,” Spoelstra said.
“I’m not going to let our guys give up,” Butler said. “I don’t care what happens, we’re going to go there and we’re going to win.”
If they don’t, they will have suffered the biggest playoff meltdown in NBA history. And wrote the most unpredictable chapter of Boston’s unpredictable season.