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“Sometimes superstars get hot,” Pierce said.

“He’s been playing unbelievable,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.

“One of the best this league has ever seen,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said.

Of course, if the Heat lose on Saturday, that performance will soon be forgotten.

For the Celtics, this will be their seventh Game 7 in the last five years _ they’re 4-2 in the previous ones, including a home win over Philadelphia one round ago. James is averaging 34 points per game in the series, the Celtics are getting both outshot and outrebounded, their best shooter in Ray Allen has been slowed by ankle pain and Pierce is shooting 34 percent.

Here they are, one win from the finals anyway, even after all that and getting written off plenty of times during the regular season.

“Nothing’s been easy up until this point. You know, can’t expect it now,” Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. “It is what it is. We’re going to take these cards and play them. Lot of confident guys in here, lot of guys who’ve been through Game 7’s, lot of experienced guys. We’re going to lean on that. And we’re going to fight. A bunch of fighters in this locker room.”

Rajon Rondo, who has either made or set up more than half of Boston’s baskets in the series, had similar sentiments.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Boston’s point guard said.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers told his team to pack for a weeklong trip starting Friday. If they win, they’ll go straight from Miami to Oklahoma City.

“We have another opportunity,” Rivers said in Boston on Thursday night. “We get to play another game, Game 7. I would say most of the people in this room would have said, `Wow, they’re going to get to Game 7, we’ll take it.’ That’s the way we have to view it. We won a game at theirs, they won here. Now we get to play for all the marbles.”

Both sides are tired, beaten up, bruised.

Bosh is working his way back into Miami’s rotation after missing nine games with a strained lower abdominal muscle. Pierce has a sprained knee ligament that he’s been playing on for much of these playoffs. Wade has been coping with knee pain. Rondo’s troublesome elbow may be acting up again. The Celtics are dealing with age. The Heat are dealing with pressure.

None of that will matter on Saturday night.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” Wade said. “It’s going to be a tough one, Game 7. We look forward to it. I’m sure Boston will look forward to it as well. This is what NBA basketball is about.”

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