MIAMI -- The Heat's star players have a message for fans who were stuck outside AmericanAirlines Arena after leaving before Miami rallied to an overtime victory in Game 6 against San Antonio: Wait for the buzzer next time.
"For all those guys who left, make sure you don't come to Game 7," center Chris Bosh deadpanned before the team's practice session Wednesday. "We only want the guys who are going to stay in the building for the whole game. You never give up. People gave up on us. They can stay where they are and watch the game at home."
Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday they saw television news footage of dejected fans filing out of the arena late Tuesday night as the Spurs appeared to be on their way to a championship-clinching win in Game 6.
Miami trailed 94-89 when 3-pointers from LeBron James and Ray Allen in the final 20 seconds forced overtime in one of the most thrilling finishes in NBA Finals history. Many fans who left the arena didn't see either shot, and most were outside it when they heard about the two huge shots over the loudspeaker radio broadcast.
James empathized with the fickle fans.
"I apologize to our fans from last night," James said lightheartedly Wednesday, a day after the Heat's 103-100 win forced a decisive Game 7 on Thursday night. "But -- that's why the game is played all the way to the zeros. As a fan, and people watching at home, I know it had to -- wow -- it had to do a lot to them."
James went on to have one of the best playoff games of his career, finishing with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his fourth career triple-double in the Finals. James joked Wednesday that he appreciates the anxiety his team subjects its fans to during intense games. Miami had trailed by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter, and the Spurs seemed on their way to a fifth NBA title.
Even arena and league officials had began to rope off the court in the final minute of the game in preparation for the postgame trophy presentation for the Spurs. Heat players said they drew a bit of motivation from those moments.
Fans and league officials weren't the only ones who were on the verge of giving up on the Heat prematurely.
"I just know in my household, my wife was like, 'Would you please stop doing that to me?'" James said, referring to longtime fiancee Savannah Brinson and their two young sons. "My mother-in-law, even my sons, they were like, 'Oh my God. You guys just lost and won at the same time.'"
Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he understands how the team's inconsistent play can drive fans nuts. But Wade gave fans a pass for trying to beat the traffic and for not wanting to see the Spurs celebrate on the Heat's home court much like the Dallas Mavericks did after beating Miami in Game 6 of the 2011 Finals.
"It's hard to be a fan," Wade said. "I get nervous and frustrated when I watch my son play in his games. But you'd rather be in this moment than not be in this moment. I heard about what happened with some of our fans the other night. But it's OK. I welcome them back with open arms."
Much like James, Wade had only one request for Game 7.
"Just stay a little longer," he said. "Stick with us. It's all good."