Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is going to decide nature vs. nurture, talent vs. culture, one and for all. Jimmy Butler has been giving the cameras a wry smile and an occasional wink since the Miami Heat lost Game 4, and even went as far as to say “We can and we will win this series.” Despite that, pundits still swear by the Boston Celtics’ pedigree.
We’ve been throwing the Heat a parade for a solid week now, and I genuinely think that knocked them off their game. Coach Erik Spoelstra’s Seal team mentality doesn’t hit the same way when his squad is frontrunning. I would say that’s why I trust that Miami will earn a trip to the NBA Finals on Monday, but I don’t trust either of these teams.
The 2023 playoffs have reflected the regular season more than we’d like to admit. It felt like a ton of teams were sandbagging — none more than Miami — November through April and biding their time until the real hooping starts. For the past month, they’ve shown us who they are, with Angela Bassett yelling “Show them who you are,” and Jimmy Buckets obliging. He did that in Game 6, too, but it wasn’t enough. At the same time, we’ve been expecting a regression to the mean from Miami, and that’s sort of what happened in Games 4, 5, and 6.
You can say it’ll be extremely difficult for the Heat to bounce back from coming .1 seconds away from the Finals. I won’t be saying that, but you can.
Beware of public perception
This Game 7 has serious “favored team gets the football pulled out from under them” vibes. That Derrick White escape was almost as improbable as the Kansas City Chiefs 13-second win over the Buffalo Bills, but if you remember, they lost the AFC Championship to the Cincinnati Bengals.
To steal another example from the NFL, how about the Minnesota Vikings edging the New Orleans Saints on a pass to Stefon Diggs with no time remaining only to get blasted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC title game?
So many people have said all the pressure is now on Miami that it might’ve flipped back to Boston. The finale is in Beantown, and the C’s opened up at 8-point favorites. That was the exact same line as Game 1, when Miami took over late, and Boston didn’t help its cause at all.
Nothing would make me happier than seeing Butler get some comeuppance for those team picture day dreads, and it’d be even sweeter if he was the Big Face of a 3-0 collapse.
You see, those are the exact kinds of thoughts the Heat want you thinking.
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