Heat wins, avoids a Game 7 in NY, advances to Eastern finals

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) dunks against New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson (23) during the first quarter Game 6 of the Eastern Conference second-round playoff series at the Kaseya Center in Miami on Friday, May 12, 2023.

[email protected]

Games 7’s are the stuff of poems and rhapsody in sports. The ultimate elimination game. The “must win” that literally is. The apex of athletic competition at its most pressurized.

The Miami Heat and their fans have never been happier to avoid one.

See, Game 7s are great if your team arrives at one either hot or home.

Click to resize

Miami would have been neither in the game that loomed Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Instead, the Heat held on Friday night on their own court to beat New York, 96-92, and eliminate the Knicks in a 4-2 series that seemed closer.

“An extraordinary effort,” coach Erik Spoelstra called Friday night.

Told the Florida Panthers also had won Friday night to also reach their Eastern Conference finals, Spo said, “I wish I could actually go to some of those events.”

Now Miami advances to the 10th Eastern Conference finals in its history and second in as many years. It will be an ECF rematch vs. Boston or against Philadelphia. They play a deciding Game 7 Sunday in Boston.

Miami is 3-2 all-time vs. Boston in the playoffs, mostly recently a win in the Eastern finals in 2020. The Heat is 2-1 vs. the Sixers, most recently a second-round win last season.

The Heat was playing to avoid a Game 7 in New York with very good reason.

Home-court advantage in Game 7s is a thing. It’s quantifiable.

Home teams in the ultimate elimination game are 111-35 in league history, a 76 percent win rate. Miami’s and New York’s own Game 7 history reflects that. The Heat is 0-2 in G7s away, with losses at Atlanta in 2009 and in Toronto in 2016 (but 6-3 at home). The Knicks are 5-2 at home (but 2-6 away).

And Miami would have traveled for that on a two-game losing streak had Friday not gone right.

Instead, a near-escape, and relief.

Instead, Miami is still in the fight to become only the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals. The other was the 1999 Knicks who did it at Miami’s expense, beating the No. 1 Heat in the first round.

The Heat had been 0-10 in games in which Scott Foster was the referee, but that jinx ended with the win.

Miami enjoys some extra rest now largely because Bam Adebayo came up big with 23 points including a dunk for a six-point lead with 1:05 left. Jimmy Butler scored 24 despite poor shooting (7 for 22), and Miami hung on despite shooting only 40 percent and hitting only 7 of 27 three-point attempts.

It was an exceptionally physical game, a game in which Adebayo called his boards (he had nine) “grown-man rebounds.”

“It showed our determination and will,” said Adebayo of the result. “We’ve been battle-tested this whole year.”

New York got 41 points from Jalen Brunson — 79 in the past two games — but all for naught.

“How was that dude not an all-star or All-NBA?” said Spoelstra.

Brunson shot 14 of 22 in the game. Trouble was, the rest of rest of the Knicks shot 13 of 49, or 26 percent

That is why one team is flying back to New York.

And the other team is thrilled to not be doing the same.

This story was originally published May 12, 2023 10:25 PM.

Source link