By LARRY VAUGHT
When the Miami Heat lost to Boston in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference final, Bam Adebayo blamed himself for the loss. His Heat teammates and coaches did not, but Adebayo did.
He probably should have patted himself on the back — but anyone who knows the former University of Kentucky star knows he would never do that — after what he did in Sunday night’s 125-113 win over Boston to put Miami into the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. He scored 32 points on 11 of 15 shoots, pulled off 13 rebounds and had five assists in a team-high 39 minutes.
“That’s what stars do. They find a way to win. They impact winning. He’s done it all year long,” veteran Heat guard Jimmy Butler said. “It’s like I say, any other game, you never know who it’s going to be on any given night because you can’t key in on one guy. We have so much trust in each other, and we have a lot of trust in Bam, and Bam makes sure that we win the game tonight.”
Adebayo, who also saved Game 1 with a last-second block of Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt, became just the fourth player in franchise history with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a playoff game. The other three — LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. That’s ELITE company. He also became just the seventh player in NBA history 23 years old or younger to have 30 points and 14 rebounds in a conference final.
In the postseason, he’s been incredible. He now has scored 20 or more points and had 10 or more rebounds in seven of Miami’s 15 playoff games. The only Heat player ever with more in a single postseason was James in 2012 and now Adebayo gets to face him in the finals.
“He didn’t let anybody down. We played bad as a whole,” Butler said about Game 5. “But I love the fact that he wants that pressure. He wants all of that on his shoulders. That’s why he’s the heart and soul of this team. He’s one of our leaders. That’s what stars do.
“He’s put himself on the map since he’s come into the league, and he’s huge for us, will continue to be that for us, and he knows how special he has to play in these next four wins.”
Butler said it’s hard to appreciate all Adebayo does until you play with him.
“When you actually get out there with him it’s so different because he really can do it better than anybody can say that he can,” Butler said. “I just love being around him. He’s a good dude. He cares about winning. He cares about his teammates. He’s the heart and soul of this thing, I keep saying it, but he’s going to be the reason that we win a championship.”