There is no Heat player who needs rest more than Bam Adebayo before the start of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami’s starting center has been playing with a left hamstring strain and recently began wearing a compression shirt to help ease the discomfort in his right shoulder.
Adebayo is coming off one of his best performances in the playoffs with 23 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block in Game 6 of the second-round series that eliminated the New York Knicks last Friday at the Kaseya Center.
The Heat will play Boston on Wednesday, May 17, in the start of the East Crown Series.
The Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 in Game 7 of the series on Sunday.
Adebayo said, “When you want to win, you know you will do anything to get it.”
You will push your body to the maximum to win the series.”
The Miami club will return to practice on Monday after Saturday and Sunday off.
Adebayo was aggressive from the start of Friday’s game, scoring 17 points on 12 shot attempts in the first half.
That amount is tied for the most attempted in the first two playoff quarters of his NBA career.
At the end of that game, Adebayo finished with 23 points on 20 field goal attempts, a figure that tied the third most of his career in a post-season game.
Most of those attempts were near the rim. He had 14 points in the paint (7-of-18 shooting) against a Knicks defense trying to minimize that aspect of his game.
“BAM always does his best every night,” commented Jimmy Butler.
“It’s just that when he plays at a high level like he did on Friday the other games don’t count. He grabbed big rebounds, had some nice dunks down the stretch. Like I said, he’s been key for us on the defensive end all year long. But oh my god, when he’s attacking and making shots and getting to the foul line on the offensive end, he looks unstoppable.”
While Adebayo’s aggressiveness and production on offense does fluctuate at times, his defense is consistently excellent.
This was made abundantly clear in the series against the Knicks when Adebayo spent most of his time as the main marker for opposing star forward Julius Randle.
After missing Game 1 with a sprained ankle, Randle is averaging 18.8 points per game on 41.1 percent shooting from the field (28.1 on 3-pointers) over the past five games in the series.
Adebayo also helped prevent New York, an elite offensive rebounding team, from dominating the playoffs.
When Adebayo was not in rebounding position, he often wrestled with the Knicks’ best rebounder, Mitchell Robinson, to give his teammates a better chance to get the ball.
“Somebody pointed out that Bam only had nine rebounds. It felt like he took 17,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the center’s effort in Game 6.
“It was a very physical game and he was everywhere. That’s the hardest thing you can do in the splitter.”
At age 25, Adebayo is averaging 18.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. In the playoffs, he has shot 49.7 percent from the field.
This would be his third trip to the Conference Finals in his six NBA seasons for the center.
He is now just four wins away from reaching the NBA Finals for the second time in his career.
But before that Adebayo will have time to rest. He earned it.
Adebayo said, “This whole year has been our battle test.”
“People say we’re too young, we need this and that, but we’ve found a way to win. Day by day, players getting injured and playing 40 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever with desire.”
Butler also takes advantage
Butler will also benefit from the time before the start of the Eastern Finals.
The star forward missed Game 2 against the Knicks after spraining his right ankle in the opener.
Butler returned from that injury, averaging 24.5 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting from the field in the last four games of the series.
It’s a far cry from his incredible 37.6 cards per game and 59.7 percent shooting from the field in the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
It appears that the long-lasting effects of an ankle sprain have played a part in his diminished performance.
“We’ve talked a lot about Jimmy. You can put his mental toughness at the highest level of anyone on the planet as a professional athlete,” Spoelstra said.
“I am not making excuses about his work. He would yell at me if he did. But it’s clear he wasn’t as fit as in the Milwaukee Series.”