PHOENIX — As dramatic as it was, Tuesday’s Game 6 escape act by the Heat could be reduced to nothing more than a largely forgotten footnote if Miami doesn’t finish off the Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
So says Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre, who was part of one of the most remarkable Houdini performances in South Florida sports history when the 2003 Marlins “snatched” the National League Championship Series from the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s only going to be [remembered as] great if they win Game 7,” Pierre said of the Heat’s Game 6 dramatics.
Pierre said the Marlins’ wild comeback win over the Cubs in Game 6 of the NLCS — the “Steve Bartman” game — wouldn’t have the lasting import that it has now if the Marlins hadn’t also won Game 7 the next day at Wrigley Field.
Pierre said if the Cubs had won Game 7, Bartman “would have been spared” from infamy.
“He probably would have his own suite at Wrigley Field right now,” Pierre said of Bartman, the unfortunate fan who got his hands on a foul ball that possibly altered baseball history.
The Marlins were five outs away from elimination when Bartman intercepted a foul ball before it could reach the glove of left fielder Moises Alou for a possible out.
The Marlins, trailing 3-1 at the time, suddenly erupted for eight runs to take Game 6, wrapped up the NLCS with another win over the Cubs the following night, and went on to win the World Series.
In a similar vein, the Heat was trailing by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter Tuesday and were seconds from elimination when Ray Allen connected on his game-tying, game-saving three-pointer nearing the end of regulation.
“It’s definitely a good parallel,” said Pierre, the Marlins’ most avid and vocal Heat supporter.
Pierre said although there are no guarantees the Heat will complete the comeback by finishing off the Spurs on Thursday, Miami has to be considered the favorite just based on the sudden turn of emotion. Pierre said the Spurs were very likely deflated by Tuesday’s loss, just as the Cubs probably were after their Game 6 loss in ’03.
“Without a doubt, it’s going to be hard [for the Spurs],” Pierre said. “Just to be on the bus going back to the hotel, saying ‘Gosh, we were only 20 seconds away from winning it.’ You could see the trophy. You could see the ropes on the court, and then to let it slip away. It’s going to be tough.”