Jimmy Butler promised it would be so. Erik Spolestra, too, called his team's shot, saying after Miami's heartbreaking Game 6 loss, "We're gonna go up there and get it done." The Miami Heat organization reportedly had already booked a flight from Boston to Denver for the NBA Finals before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals had even tipped off.
It all looked like such misplaced hubris.
It felt, having surrendered a 3-0 series lead against the Boston Celtics into a 3-3 series tie, like clutching at straws.
It seemed, to most, that Miami's words were as flat as its ability to finish Boston off in Games 4, 5 and 6 -- the false hopes of an unraveling eight-seed reverting to its very mediocre regular-season form.
So credit to the Miami Heat. They knew who they were the whole time: Better coached, tougher, more resilient, and, ultimately, the best of the Eastern Conference.
It turns out -- and certainly the Denver Nuggets should heed this -- the Heat Way is a very real thing. Culture matters. Togetherness can be more than a hollow cliche. And greatness, at least the kind perforating out of Miami, doesn't always look the way we think.
The Celtics were a deeper, more talented team. But the Heat were the Heat, and that fact -- who they Heat are, who they knew they were even after most of us thought their luck had run its course, was too much for Boston to bear.
Yes, Jayson Tatum's rolled ankle early in Game 7 was significant. But Miami was the better team all night long, fighting harder, hitting big shots where Boston could not, weathering whatever waves of talent, mostly in the form of Derrick White, the Celtics threw their way.
This game also wasn't close, a 103-84 abdication of the promise of the Celtics' season and the comeback they could not pull off.
All postseason, Boston played with its food, its insouciance a weakness that its talent continued to overcome. It was true against Atlanta, a series that went much longer than it should have. But Boston prevailed. It was true against Philadelphia, in which they fell to a 3-2 series hole. Yet Boston prevailed again.
But Miami is not Atlanta, nor Philly. To toy with them, it turned out, was fatal to this Celtics' season.
That fact begins with Jimmy Butler, who is everything in the playoffs Joel Embiid, to date, has not been: A star. His Game 7 showing of 28 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals was just another example of that fact.
Boston should have known better than to lack urgency until that 3-0 series deficit.
But the players around Butler, too, were so much more than James Harden had been, or anyone else Boston had faced on its laid back march to the conference finals. Caleb Martin was phenomenal this series, including in this clincher in which he had 26 points -- nine of which came during a third quarter in which he helped hold off a Boston run.
It's hard, sometimes, to see true teams for what they are. But Miami is special -- there is belief, camaraderie, toughness, Butler's transformation in the playoffs to a superstar, and guys like Martin and Max Strus and Gabe Vincent playing big, gutsy, series-changing minutes, over and over.
There is Spoelstra, a maestro, whose tactical greatest and infectious confidence helped sway this thing.
So Miami shocked a Boston team that never learned to take every moment as seriously as it should have.
Now we turn to the Denver Nuggets, a team that is in many ways Boston's opposite in that respect: Focused, determined, ambitious, and hellbent on not taking lightly games or moments the way Boston did.
The Nuggets have lost only three games this postseason, and swept, in the Western Conference finals, a Lakers team that like Miami yearned for overachievement. They have Nikola Jokic, perhaps the game's best player. They have Jamal Murray, an emerging star whose ability to take over games has been critical. They are big, deep and they are wonderfully coached in a way, at least for now, the Celtics were not.
The list of reasons Denver should win this series is very long.
Vegas will surely favor Denver. So will most across the NBA. And maybe rightfully so.
But if Miami has taught us anything, it's that sometimes greatness in this game is about much more than what you think you can see on paper.