June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat guard/forward Shane Battier (31), Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) fight for the ball during the fourth quarter of game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

A Ticket To the Finals – ECF Game 7 Preview


June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) shoots the ball over Boston Celtics center Greg Stiemsma (54) during the first half in game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight is no ordinary game in South Beach. The team that comes out victorious will earn that elusive ticket to the biggest stage of basketball – the NBA Finals. It’s Game 7, it’s everything on the line, it’s come out and perform when it matters the most or go home.

In game 6 we witnessed one of the greatest individual performances of all time in NBA history, and the author was a certain LeBron James. James scored 45 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 5 assists on 19-26 shooting. James joined Wilt Chamberlain as the second player to ever put up a 45-15-5 stat line in a playoff game.

June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the third quarter of game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Despite the mind-blowing numbers, there was something else that was even more impressive with LeBron’s performance. Miami was in an elimination game on enemy ground. A loss and an early exit in the playoffs would have meant catastrophe for Miami Heat. Everyone knows that LeBron James would have been the scapegoat had Miami lost, and would have received endless amounts of unfair criticism. But there was something about him, you could see it in his eyes. He was locked in, focused and determined from the very start of the game. You could see and sense the killer instinct, one some say he lacks. No smiles, no emotion, just business. With the pressure at it’s highest LeBron went absolutely crazy, hitting fade-aways and turnarounds, forcing the Boston defenders up in the air and drawing fouls, and having a complete performance overall.

Keys to the game

You know this is going to be a good one. Most people thought the Heat were done after game 5, and now most think that the Celtics are done. The fact is that this could go either way. Both teams have had their ups and downs, and that is why we have a game 7 on our hands.

It will be interesting to see what kind of a game LeBron James has, as you know Boston will have made adjustments, and won’t allow a one man show to beat them again. He might be forced to distribute the ball more if Boston trap him but, LeBron being one of the best players in the league passing out of double teams, it could work to Miami’s advantage, as long as everyone knocks down open shots.

I would really like to see Dwyane Wade have a stronger first half, although it will depend on how LeBron plays. Wade is averaging 5.8 points per game in the first half this series, almost always struggling with his shot early in the game. Luckily, Wade has quite consistently been able to turn it on in the 4th quarters and make big plays down the stretch. If Boston’s defense puts their focus on stopping James, Wade will need to be better early.

June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts during the third quarter against the Miami Heat in game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

As for the Celtics, Pierce really needs to step up. Despite making some big shots, he has struggled from the field in the series, and shot 4-18 from the field in game 6. He needs to knock down his shots, and most importantly try and avoid foul trouble. He got an early 3 fouls, and had to take a seat in the second quarter in game 6. Pierce has been in foul trouble throughout the series, and it really disrupts his rhythm, especially on offense.

June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat forward/center Chris Bosh (1) reacts during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics in game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Chris Bosh gave Miami 28 quality minutes off the bench, and looked pretty solid. He gave Miami the size they need so much, and played solid defense, blocking 3 shots. Look for him to come off the bench again to give Miami a nice lift.

At the end of the day, this will come down to who wants it the most. We know LeBron and Rondo will both play 48 minutes if needed, and both teams will leave it all out on the floor. The fans have made it clear – a Heat-Thunder finals would be the most attractive and competitive series, let’s see if Miami can make it happen.

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