By John Schmeelk
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The Miami Heat’s season is on the precipice of disaster, the result of which will be significant changes to the roster, coaching staff or both. The Miami Heat have been a poor road team all year, going only 18-15 during the regular season and 3-4 in the playoffs. Now their season depends on winning an elimination game in one of the most hostile buildings in the league — against the best prepared team in the NBA. In other words, this is not going to be easy.

I call these “star games.” Rarely can you depend on role players to do big things in games of this caliber on the road. There’s a much better chance of the atmosphere and stakes affecting their play than someone like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. If both don’t play at a high level, the Heat are not going to play another game this season. By combining forces with Chris Bosh in Miami, they signed on for this type of responsibility, and now they have to deal with it.

The series might very well come down to what the Heat can get out of their third star, Chris Bosh. After playing 15 decent minutes in Game 5 and with the season on the line, he should be out there for a minimum of 25 minutes. I would expect the Celtics to continue to play defense they way they have and force Bosh to do something. If he does, Kevin Garnett doesn’t have the freedom to play a quasi-zone defense, which will make things that much easy on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

I’m not going to waste a paragraph on how this is a legacy game for LeBron James, because it isn’t. If he wins a title next year or the year after, no one will remember a Game 6 against the Celtics. But the Heat need their stars to play well early and put their teammates at ease. That’s the only way that Miami hangs in this game. If the Celtics come out fast and come out to an early lead, I could see the Heat collapsing on themselves and getting blown out. It could be a replay of LeBron’s final game in Cleveland.

The pressure on the Heat, both self-imposed and from the media, in this game is immense. Due to all the fanfare around LeBron’s free agency two years ago and their little dance party, the Heat were expected to win multiple championships. If they fail this season, it will be two seasons without even getting one. That pressure must be eating at the stars, not to mention the role players who are probably in warmups thinking, “I better not do anything to screw this up.”

As for the Celtics, they need to treat this like Game 7 and not get complacent, something we’ve seen from this group of veterans before. If they play with energy and do what they’ve done the last three games, they should win the series. A Game 7 in Miami is a tough task for any team, and Boston needs to treat Game6 as a do-or-die affair.

But all eyes will be on the Heat, not Boston. People will be waiting for LeBron to put his stamp on this game early and late. Pundits want to see the Wade that took out the Mavericks in the finals back in 2006. If they fail, the loss will be put on them, and they will have a much different look next season.

In the end, however, whoever comes out of the East is somewhat irrelevant. No one is going to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are hitting on all cylinders and their stars are playing at the top of their games. They have the individual talent and the team-play to deliver a title. Their ability to come back and beat a great Spurs team is eye-opening. Right now, they are the team to beat. I’ll have more on them in my finals preview coming up later in the week.

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What do you predict for the rest of this series? Will the Celtics finish off the Heat tonight, or will Miami at least take it to a Game 7? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…

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