Thursday night is the night the Miami Heat will either become a mini-dynasty or be labeled epic underachievers. Some might argue with both designations, but the Heat's perception among the basketball community will probably always be the source of debate.
There are reasons to believe the San Antonio Spurs will knock off the Heat in Game 7. No team has won back-to-back games in the series to this point. The Heat will have to break that trend with a win at home Thursday night.
The Spurs proved in Game 1 that they could win on the Heat's floor, so a road win would not be the most shocking result. This is also the second Game 7 the Heat have played in consecutive series.
Following an emotional comeback win in Game 6, will they have the energy to respond in Game 7?
All of those questions/concerns are valid, but now that we've talked about all that can wrong for the Heat, let's move on to reality. LeBron James and Co. are going to win Game 7, and the following five slides explain why.
The following quote from Manu Ginobili, per the NBA on ESPN's Twitter feed, sums up what seemed to be the sentiments of the Spurs players after Game 6:
"I have no clue how we're going to be re-energized. I'm devastated. But we have to." - Manu Ginobili— The NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 19, 2013
At the postgame press conference, Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan looked totally defeated. They tried to say the right things, but they are human beings. There is no way the bitter taste from Game 6 won't spill over to Game 7.
If they were clearly the more talented team, it could serve as motivation. However, against a team like Miami, climbing the mountain again is a daunting task.
Shane Battier has struggled mightily throughout the last two rounds of the playoffs, but this is the type of game where a veteran role player like him will shine.
Battier started to break out of his slump in Game 6. He was 3-of-4 from three-point range for nine points. Mario Chalmers also had his best game since Game 2 (also a home game) with 20 points on four threes.
The Spurs' counterparts—Danny Green and Gary Neal—scored a combined eight points in Game 6. This isn't a strange trend since role players generally perform better at home. Stars must drive their teams on the road.
Even if the stars for the Spurs and Heat play to a stalemate, as long as the role players stick to the script, the Heat will have an edge.
No one but Wade knows just how bad the future Hall of Famer's knees are, but it's been apparent for stretches during this series—and for one game against the Indiana Pacers—Wade can still be a major factor.
With everything on the line, it is hard to imagine him being anything but ultra aggressive. He'll grit his teeth through the pain, have his bandage re-taped or whatever it takes to go all out in this game.
In front of his fans in Miami, Wade will want to deliver a performance that reminds us just how good he can be.
In his last seven games, Wade has averaged 19.2 points per contest. If his scoring output is anywhere close to that in Game 7, he will help lead the Heat to victory.
Every team has a fall guy on its roster. It's the player who takes all the blame whenever his team comes up short. Usually, the player is very talented and tall. At times the criticism is warranted, but it usually is the product of emotion and over-reaction.
Bosh is that guy for the Heat.
When Miami is at its best, Bosh is playing a role far beneath his talent level. People must remember that before he joined the Big Three, he averaged at least 22.3 points and 8.7 rebounds for five straight seasons in Toronto.
To fit in he has made himself a jump-shooter, rim protector and rebounder. In Game 6, he had one of his best games of the NBA Finals. He had 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.
He can taste a second straight championship, and he'll play the role the Heat need again on Thursday.
Did James wait too long to assert himself offensively in Game 6? Yes, but apparently it wasn't too late. He keyed the Heat's comeback from almost certain elimination with stellar plays on both ends and shear desperate energy. He messed around and had his second triple-double of the NBA Finals.
The energy and aggression was what the team needed.
While his shot may not always fall, James' shot-blocking, rebounding, on-ball defense and playmaking is always a plus. Be it 30 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists or another thunderous blocked shot, James won't let the Heat be denied in Game 7.
Prediction: Heat 105, Spurs 99