Saturday was what Miami Heat Center Bam Adebayo thinks he is, as well as what he could be.
At the time of the morning shoot at TD Garden, Adebayo talks were about failing to vote for the NBA All-Defense, being transferred to the second team for the third consecutive season, still making the first team in his five years. For.
Back in the same spot eight hours later, Adebayo turned his attention to the other end of the court, finishing with 31 points in a 109–103 victory that gave the Heat a 2–1 lead over the Boston Celtics. Seven Eastern Conference Finals.
“Same old drama says,” Adebayo said of his career’s one-point finish from the playoffs, “just different mindset.”
It was a mentality of need, with forward Jimmy Butler losing the second half of Saturday night due to a knee pain.
Working out of rust in his first game in two weeks with point guard Kyle Lowry as he dealt with a hamstring strain, and staying out of his game on a 4-of-15 night with guard Tyler Harrow, scoring Was at a premium for the Heat.
Adebayo therefore showed a premium side of his game, which had not yet been highlighted in the series, after scoring a combined 16 points in the opening two games at the FTX Arena.
With the Heat on Sunday before Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. Monday at TD Garden, coach Eric Spoelstra said, “He did his version of Jimmy saying, ‘Do what’s required for the game. He was very outspoken. It happened in several moments that were entirely in the context of how we wanted to play. He was more outspoken on the catch and those moments in between.
“And it wasn’t just the scoring. It was recognizable by everyone, but it also helped us organize, facilitate, sometimes play point guard for us, through that to offense in the post and then defending as usual. Did a lot of work in terms of one to five, against a team that presents a lot of challenges.”
Adebayo completed 15 of 22 shots, the most in any game in his NBA career, 12 more than he combined in the first two games of the series. In Buttler’s absence, he had scored 7 out of 10 runs in the second half.
Adebayo’s stat line also included 10 rebounds, six assists, four steals and one blocked shot.
“When Jimmy got out in the second half, he stabilized us,” said Spoelstra. “It got a little messy there, and when that happened, we were able to get the ball to the bum and just get somewhat consistent.”
Teammate Max Strauss said it was “special” to see the pushback offered by Adebayo.
“Just because of all the noise and all the criticism they’re getting, it was just too big for them to take a step like this,” Strauss said. “And we need it.
“It wasn’t just leaning back and shooting floaters. He was getting physical. He was going to the rim. He was just too involved, and we need to. We need to get him into more actions.” And it’s his game. That’s how we’re going to make him better.”
Lowry back to the facility, and with Butler leaving, it made the attention clear.
“We made some adjustments and we did a few things to figure out how to let that go,” Lowry said.
The Celtics were aware of the discourse about Adebayo entering the night.
“We also talked about Adebayo struggling in this series, he’s going to be extra aggressive,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “Keep his head down, we don’t match him.”
The Heat had built a season around Bam’s backstop.
This time, a crime was built around the invader Adebayo.
“We knew who Miami was,” said Celtics guard Jaylen Brown. “That’s what they pride themselves on, that’s the physicality. If we have to win this series we have to match that intensity. We just have to get up. Balm was very comfortable in the paint.”