Heat Punch Their Ticket To The Finals

Miami Storms back late to take series.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

Will someone please explain to these young teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls that you have to play for all four quarters if you expect to win in the playoffs as opposed to 3 ½. Just because you have a late lead doesn't mean you can mark up a win before the final whistle sounds.

Apparently the Bulls didn't get that memo.

Up comfortably and looking like they were going to take this series back to Miami, the Bulls inexplicably took a page out of the Western Conference Finals and allowed Miami to go on an 18-3 run to close out the game. That spurt was enough to give the Heat the lead late in the fourth and they held on for a gratifying 83-80 win.

"We had to go through a lot of adversity," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That struggle that we went through in March, where we lost five straight — all of them close games, where we didn't execute down the stretch and weren't able to close games out — that helped us. As painful as that was, we had to go through that fire together to be able to gain the confidence where we could be successful now in the postseason."

The win has to be especially sweet for LeBron James, who put up 28 points and 11 boards, including 8 crucial points during that late run, because the only thing that could validate the mistakes he's made over the last year is winning and he's one step closer to that goal.

"There's no sense of relief right now," James said. "We've still got work to do. We'll look at this moment tonight, have a little bit of time tomorrow to go over this moment, what we just accomplished. But we get ready for Dallas very soon. We don't take for granted this win and take for granted being Eastern Conference champions."

Whether Miami's success is good or bad for the league, and sports in general, is an article for another time but for now, they are the Eastern Conference Champions and are four wins away from getting the first piece of bling that James so eagerly covets. And it the words 'Faustian Deal' comes to mind, well, that's just me.

With the talent and skill they have with their 'Big three', it's going to be hard for the Dallas Mavericks to take the Finals away from them. Heck, it's going to be hard for any team to take a game from them in the coming years as they grow more and more as a team.

Dammit.

"You can see that we have two, three players that have no fear," Miami president Pat Riley said. "Chris steps up there and makes two free throws that he's got to make. LeBron and Dwayne struggling a little bit with their game most of the night, but they made some big, big shots. That's what it's all about. We're just happy to be back in the finals."

The Finals begin Tuesday night at 9pm on ABC.

Photo Courtesy of:  ASSOCIATED PRESS