MIAMI (AP) — Mientras sonaba la chicharra al final del sexto partido, en que perdieron ante los Pacers de Indiana, LeBron James caminó hacia varios de sus compañeros del Heat de Miami para estrecharles la mano y compartir un par de palabras.

Su mensaje fue enfático: hay que estar listos para el séptimo duelo.

Y ahora toca el momento definitivo en la serie por el título de la Conferencia del Este.

Para el ganador, el pase a la serie final de la NBA. Para el perdedor, un receso de muchos lamentos. Es así de simple ahora para el campeón, el Heat, y los confiados Pacers, quienes se enfrentan en el séptimo juego del Este el lunes por la noche en Miami, una ventaja que el Heat se ganó al finalizar con la mejor foja de la liga esta temporada.

"Todos los años hay 30 equipos a los que les encantaría ser parte de esto, un juego para decidir el pase a la final de la NBA", dijo James. "Y hay dos equipos que están en esa posición. Para esa sensación no hay sustituto. No se puede sustituir el ambiente en el que vamos a estar el lunes por la noche, los dos equipos. Debemos atesorar este momento".

Pero cuando todo termine el lunes, sólo un equipo atesorará el resultado.

Para el Heat, es una oportunidad de llegar a la final por tercer año consecutivo y mantener viva la esperanza de ganar un segundo título seguido. Para los Pacers, es una oportunidad de cerrar lo que seguramente será una de las mayores sorpresas en la historia de los playoff de la NBA, considerando que terminaron 16 juegos y medio por detrás del Heat en la temporada regular.

Pero nada de eso importa ahora. Los Pacers han derrotado a Miami en cinco de nueve partidos esta temporada. Necesitan una sexta victoria o todo habrá sido por gusto.

"Es un partido de vida o muerte", dijo el entrenador de los Pacers, Frank Vogel. "Nuestro enfoque en este momento no es que si perdemos quedamos fuera, sino que si ganamos vamos a la final. Y a eso es a lo que vamos. Vamos a dejar lo mejor de nosotros para ganar el campeonato de la Conferencia Este".

El ganador del lunes abrirá la final de la NBA el jueves contra San Antonio.

Los antecedentes indican que las probabilidades están en contra de los Pacers. Desde que la NBA estrenó en 1984 el formato que se usa ahora para la postemporada, los equipos de casa están 16-2 en el séptimo juego de la final de la conferencia o la final de la NBA.

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