Saturday, June 9, at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, the Miami Heat will host the Boston Celtics in an Eastern Conference champion-deciding Game 7. This will be the penultimate series of a potential championship season for the team that moves on to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals. The losing team will feel ultimate disappointment as their championship dreams suddenly come to an end.
A chance to keep championship hopes alive is at stake Saturday night. The team that plays with the most energy while maintaining its focus will likely represent the Eastern Conference in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Finals Schedule
Game 1: Monday, May 28, Boston Celtics 79 at Miami Heat 93, Heat lead series 1-0
Game 2: Wednesday, May 30, Boston Celtics 111 at Miami Heat 115, Heat lead series 2-0
Game 3: Friday, June 1, Miami Heat 91 at Boston Celtics 101, Heat lead series 2-1
Game 4: Sunday, June 3, Miami Heat 91 at Boston Celtics 93, Series tied 2-2
Game 5: Tuesday, June 5, Boston Celtics 94 at Miami Heat 90, Celtics lead series 3-2
Game 6: Thursday, June 7, Miami Heat 98 at Boston Celtics 79, Series tied 3-3
Game 7: Saturday, June 9, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Heat have the advantage of playing this Game 7 in the friendly confines of AmericanAirlines Arena and if they can energize their crowd and ride that energy, Miami should make their second consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
Notice that I said that Miami should win if the Heat can energize their crowd. The crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena can sometimes be--shall we say--a little disengaged. In order to hype up their crowd, the Heat will need to get out into transition and make some spectacular plays. To do that, they will have to force the action on both sides of the floor.
If Miami's defense forces the Celtics into turnovers, the Heat will get easy scoring opportunities in transition that will likely energize their crowd. Offensively, Miami will need to force the tempo and push the ball up the court on makes as well as misses. By quickly advancing the ball into the frontcourt, the Heat will limit the number of times that they will have to try to score against Boston's vaunted half-court defense.
The more times that Miami can get out into transition and score some easy buckets, the more energized the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd will be. If the Heat can create and feed off that energy, home-court advantage will probably help them earn their second straight trip to the NBA Finals.
The Boston Celtics are a veteran-laden, championship-tested team that will not go gently into that good night. They have come much too far to just let their dreams of a championship season fade away.
The Celtics will fight to keep their dreams alive and if they can keep the Heat out of transition, they just might be able to limit the energy of the crowd and negate Miami's home-court advantage. Then it will simply become a battle of will and determination. And that is a battle that the Boston Celtics have shown that they can remain competitive in regardless of the venue.
Will, determination, focus and energy will determine which of these two teams will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals. If Miami gives the home crowd something to get excited about, the Heat may be able to ride that energy to a victory. However, if the Celtics limit Miami's transition opportunities and keep the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd disengaged, Boston will have a legitimate chance to become one of those rare teams to win a Game 7 on the road.
Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has hundreds of articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
More on the 2012 NBA Playoffs:
Information from Yahoo! Sports' Boston at Miami Playoffs coverage was used for this article.
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