Game 7 at the AA Arena will determine who faces San Antonio in the Finals.
After a fascinatingly unpredictable series between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, it all comes down to Game 7 on Monday night.
The winner will advance to the NBA Finals where the San Antonio Spurs await, while the losers will be left wondering what could have been after an incredible postseason campaign.
The defending champions missed out on an opportunity to close it out on Saturday night, while the Pacers were given renewed optimism that they have what it takes to deal with what the likes of LeBron James can throw at them.
“We hate to be in this position, but it’s an opportunity and we look forward to it on Monday,” the league MVP told reporters after practice at the weekend.
Coach Frank Vogel has called upon his players to produce the “perfect game” and they will have confidence of being able to win in what will undoubtedly be a hostile reception considering what is at stake.
“It is a closeout game and an elimination game. Our approach right now is not if we lose we’re out – our approach is if we win, we get to the finals. And that’s what we’re going for. We’re going to give our best shot and try to win the Eastern Conference championship,” Vogel told the media as reported by NBA.com.
Miami have the chance of clinching a third Finals appearance in three years, while Indiana would seal their first return to the showpiece series of the season for the first time since 2000.
If it is to be an immediate return for the Heat, they will need more than just another inspirational performance from James, as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh continue to struggle.
Coach Erik Spoelstra will be boosted by the return of Chris Andersen following his one-game suspension, with the “Birdman” hoping to continue his impressive shooting streak as he has gone 15-for-15 from the field in this series.
In contrast, the Pacers front-court has been dominant at times during this series, while All-Star Paul George has relished the pressure of growing into the franchise player, Roy Hibbert and David West have been immense inside the paint at both ends.
However, it will all count for nothing should they lose on Monday. Having gone toe-to-toe with the highly fancied defending champions and come out at 3-3 with one to play, Indiana will be desperate to complete the job and pull off the biggest shock of the NBA Playoffs 2013.