The text came from Kid Sheraton Tuesday afternoon.
I can get tickets for tomorrow night’s Heat game if you’re free.
Oh, how I love good news. First task at hand: control giddiness. Task two: get karaoke night covered. Done! Thanks, Joseph. Task three: pack camera, laptop, golf clubs, vitamins, poker skills for potential casino visit, white shirt to fit in. Check to all of the above.
The Heat had already beaten the Boston Celtics in Game One, giving those of us who watched the impression they were on the verge of greatness… and the NBA Finals. Without putting the cart in front of the horse, LeBron’s and Wade’s last few games leads us to believe they had finally turned a corner and could potentially control the league for years to come.
After watching LeBron go for 32 in Game One and seeing both he and Wade combine for 197 points in their final three games against the Pacers (that’s good!), the four hour drive from Tampa to Miami left me wondering what we were in store for Tuesday night. A 40-point performance? Fifty, perhaps? Certainly Boston’s defense wouldn’t allow that to happen. But we’re slowly learning that anything is possible when Wade and James step on the floor.
Regardless of the outcome, two things were certain. Miami did not want to let Boston back in the series and Kid Sheraton and I would be regular customers at the arena bar.
As it turned out, someone did score forty Tuesday night, but he wasn’t wearing a Miami uniform.
The Heat came out sluggish, shooting 25% from the floor for most of the first half, simultaneously allowing Boston to score at will. Wade was even held scoreless until the final seconds of the first half. Were it not for Miami’s role players, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, Boston’s double-digit, first-half lead would have been much larger. Still the white-clad Miami crowd remained positive.
Chalmers led Miami with 14 points at intermission. His counterpart at point guard, Rajon Rondo, was having the game of his life, finishing the first half with 22. Boston led by seven heading into the locker room.
Wade finally came alive in the third, scoring 12. After being down by as many as 15, the Heat had finally regained the lead. Miami had played horribly yet were still seemingly in the game throughout. Miami knew it. Boston knew it. Everyone in the arena knew it. The once-silenced crowd was ready for a comeback. When the Heat gained the first lead of the second half off a Haslem layup, I thought my eardrums were going to explode.
Every time the Heat added to their lead, which got as high as eight, the crowd got wilder. Victory was in sight. A LeBron block of Paul Pierce, which resulted in a Wade fastbreak the other way, not only made a statement, it exemplified the difference in age and athleticism between the teams’ key players.
Then, Miami sputtered and Boston regained new confidence. Boston took the lead back with seven to play. The crowd became nervous once again; the game a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Miami’s biggest weakness this post-season has been its offensive complacency. In the fourth, Wade had once again gone cold. The Heat resorted to taking bad shots while Boston continued to get looks they wanted. The crowd ebbed and flowed with each lead change.
With three minutes left in the game and Boston up by three, Kid Sheraton looked at me and said “This game has overtime written all over it.” I had been thinking the exact same thing.
It was to be.
After Miami went back up by two with under two to play, Wade missed the front end of his pair of three throws causing every Heat fan in the arena to fear the inevitable Ray Allen three-pointer, which he eventually hit. One errant LeBron jumper with time expiring and the gods had given us free basketball.
99-99 at the end of regulation and the Dewars’ Clubhouse after-party would have to wait at least five more minutes. At least we were getting our money’s worth.
Boston led by two with two to play in overtime, but in the end, even Rondo’s 44 points were not enough to tame the Heat.
Miami emerged victorious after a game which lasted over three hours. The after-party had begun, both inside the stadium and out. Whoever accused Miami sports fans of not being dedicated has obviously not been to a playoff game at American Airlines Arena. Music blasted, people danced, the shouts of “Let’s Go Heat” echoed loudly along Biscayne Boulevard. The Heat are now two wins away from a return to the Finals with more than just losing on their minds.
A late sushi dinner and casino trip later, Kid Sheraton and I were cashed. The emotions of the game had worn us down. I can’t even imagine how Rondo felt, who played all fifty-three minutes. To call that game epic might be an exaggeration but we were fortunate enough to witness perhaps the best, or at least the most emotional, game of the 2012 playoffs.
The Heat can take comfort in the fact that, even after playing sub-par basketball by their standards, they still defeated a gritty, veteran Celtics team. If they’re lucky enough to get past them, however, there’s another veteran team out in Texas that might not be so forgiving.