This wasn't the path the Heat envisioned after going up 3–0 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals on May 21.

At that point, Miami stood on the precipice of its sixth NBA Finals appearance in the last 13 seasons. Boston looked lost, with star forward Jayson Tatum and guard Jaylen Brown scuffling. The hot-handed Heat appeared destined to meet a Nuggets team that had just polished off the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

A funny thing happened, though: the Celtics won the next three games, taking Game 6 on guard Derrick White's buzzer-beater that put a bow on one of the most dramatic finishes in franchise history. It was the kind of ending that made Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s attitude toward Game 7 surprising.

"Happy our guys get to experience a Game 7. For the real competitors in this association, this is what you dream about," Spoelstra told reporters Monday. "You spend all your time training in the summer for moments like these. They’re not for everybody, but neither are we."

Spoelstra has a 4–3 record in Game 7s with the Heat, and he will attempt tonight to claim his first victory in such a setting since crushing the Hornets in the first round in 2016.