Boston took out its starters with 28.3 seconds left. By then, workers already had a rope around the perimeter of the court, preparing for the East trophy presentation.
"Give them credit," Rondo said. "They spread the points out as a team tonight. Give them credit. They played great tonight as a team and we just came up short."
When Heat President Pat Riley was shown on the giant overhead video screen in the moments just after the final buzzer, the crowd screamed. Riley finally acknowledged them with some claps, before the 2012 Eastern Conference champions logo was shown as players below the scoreboard high-fived and hugged, all wearing the new T-shirts and caps that marked the accomplishment.
"A roller-coaster ride," Arison said.
A roller-coaster game, too. In a roller-coaster season.
All worth it — for now, anyway. The next step awaits, another shot at the finals. In a championship-or-bust season, the Heat board a plane for Oklahoma City on Sunday.
"We have been through a lot," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.