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Red Zone Diaries - TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT

Jun 6 2005 10:56AM

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Dancer Gallery Twenty-One

RedZone Diaries:

MIAMI, June 6 - Forty-eight minutes.

It is all that matters. It is all that stands between the HEAT’s championship dreams. Tonight that dream either lives or dies.

The HEAT and the Pistons play one more game and this one determines who goes on to play San Antonio in the NBA Finals and who goes home.

For Miami, an ultimate game awaits and an ultimate challenge as well. Defeat the defending champions for the fourth time in seven games and do it with your best player hurting.

Do it or be done.

Dwyane Wade’s strained rib muscles kept him out of Game 6, Saturday night at the Palace and the HEAT could not replace the 27 points he has averaged in this series. They lost by 25 and were held to 66 points, a franchise record-low in a post-season game. They clearly missed Wade’s talent, his heart, his ability to penetrate and create opportunities for others, the pressure he puts on the Detroit defense and the pressure he deflects from his own teammates.

Miami missed their first chance to close out the Pistons and win the Eastern Conference, not their last.

Almost everyone expects Wade to fight through the pain and the Pistons tonight. The pressing question is not really whether or not he will suit up and play Game 7. It’s really come down to, can he play effectively?

I remember in the 1997 playoffs when Pat Riley took his HEAT into Game 6 of round two against New York, trailing three games to two. The HEAT had to play that game without the suspended, P.J. Brown. That night Riley told his team that somebody had to bring the heart of P.J. Brown to the table and that night, Ike Austin did. His huge blocked shot helped preserve a

95-90 HEAT win at Madison Square Garden that kept hope and the HEAT alive. It forced a seventh game in Miami and the HEAT won that one as well, advancing to the Conference Finals.

To advance to the NBA Finals tonight, everyone must bring the heart of Dwyane Wade with them.


Every player on the HEAT roster. Every fan who cares and who watches tonight, whether you are in the HEAT’s house or your own.

Bring it.

In Saturday’s 91-66 loss at Detroit, the games greatest disparity was turnovers. Miami committed 19, which resulted in 25 Pistons points. Detroit turned it over just six times. Detroit also out-rebounded Miami by six but it was more pronounced on the offensive glass where the Pistons turned 14 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points. Those two factors helped turn Game 6 into a one-sided affair.

With or without a productive Dwyane Wade tonight, Miami must find answers to the Pistons pressure defense and offensive board work.

“We just have to work the game better,” said Damon Jones, who had two turnovers in the first five games and three on Saturday. “We have to be able to move the ball throughout their pressure and make plays.”

If there was anything positive to take from Game 6 it had to be the more active play of Shaquille O’Neal. His 24 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots made it, perhaps, his best game of these 2005 Playoffs. Tonight, the Big Diesel has to make an even bigger impact. He is of course, so very capable of doing that. He has made a career of just that.

“We’ve just got to play our game and handle their pressure and just take care of the basketball,” O’Neal said on Saturday night.

“Game 7 is no room for mistakes and everyone has to come and do their part.”

On the subject of the status of his star-partner, Dwyane Wade;

“I’m confident that he will be playing,” said Shaq. “But if he’s not, everyone has to step up in Game 7, including me.”

Bring it!

This is the biggest game in the 17 year history of the Miami HEAT. We have never come this far. We have never been this close. One win away from an Eastern Conference Championship. One win away from playing in the NBA Finals. One game, one goal, one last chance for your championship dreams to live on.

“So I guess this is what everybody else wanted and they get it,” said HEAT head coach, Stan Van Gundy.

“So, you know, that’s where we are now, and like I said, every kid that grows up dreaming of playing in the NBA dreams of playing in game 7. So, there we are. I would think all of our guys would be excited about it.”

Pistons coach Larry Brown had his own thoughts about bringing his defending champions into the HEAT’s house tonight for what could be his final game as their coach and what will be a defining game for both teams.

“This is great for basketball,” he said Saturday night after the Pistons evened this series at 3-3.

“You know, you’ve got, I think, two terrific teams that try to play the right way. I have a lot of admiration for Miami and the way they played in this series and how competitive they are. I haven’t seen any cheap stuff. It just seems like two teams really trying to do the right thing, so it’s great. It’s the kind of situation I hate to see anybody lose. But the reward is so great and from my perspective, you know, I’ve been doing this a long time, you don’t get into many Finals situations like this or Game 7’s.

“I’m nervous about it. But I hope my players enjoy this. The thing I dread about Game 7 is for the players to worry about losing and making mistakes.
I just want them to enjoy it and do the best they can and hopefully the best team will win.”

Earlier in these playoffs, Pat Riley, who handed this team to Stan Van Gundy, handed him a note and all that note said was, ‘When it matters most’.

Well, it matters most right now. For Miami it has never mattered more. One game, one win and just 48 minutes stand between the HEAT and their championship dreams.

It is the ultimate game in HEAT history and a maximum effort is your only chance to succeed.

What you see tonight, in Game 7 of the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals, you will remember forever. May the force of the RED ZONE be with you.

It matters most tonight. It is Game 7. Bring it!