Heat Stars Send Strong Message to Lakers Ahead of Finals Matchup

Getty Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat.

The Miami Heat are heading back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014, thanks in large part to Bam Adebayo’s big performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals that helped close out a feisty Boston Celtics squad.

Adebayo delivered 32 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists in 39 minutes to help the Heat bounce the Celtics and set up a date with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Lakers are heavy favorites to take home the title (-400) but Adebayo and the Heat aren’t phased by the daunting task.

“We’ve been underdogs our whole life. Everybody up here has got a chip on their shoulder from something,” Adebayo told reporters after beating the Celtics. “It’s a tossup when you get in the Finals. We’re not backing down from anybody, and that’s what I like about this team.”

The Lakers won both of their games against the Heat this season. The first was a 95-80 win at home in Staples Center on Nov. 8 and the other came on Dec. 13 in the form of a 113-110 victory.

When the teams arrived in the bubble more than two months ago, the Lakers were the favorite to take home the title, along with the Bucks and Clippers — teams that suffered earlier than expected exits. The Lakers were listed at +225, while the Heat were a lofty +4000 in the first odds released for the NBA title following the restart.

The Heat had the highest preseason odds of any team to ever make the NBA Finals at 75-1, per ESPN.

Jimmy Butler: Winning Goes Through LeBron James

While the Heat are confident, there is a large amount of respect in Miami’s locker room for Lakers star LeBron James. James led the Heat to a pair of titles during his tenure there alongside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade from 2010-14.

“It’s been like this for a very long time: If you want to win, you’ll have to go through a LeBron James-led team. That’s what it normally comes down to,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said. “You’re going to get the same test over and over until you pass it. And that test is LeBron James.”

James is making his 10th Finals appearance. He previously reached the Finals eight times in a row — four with the Heat and four in his second stint with the Cavaliers. He was injured last season when the Lakers missed the postseason.

“We’re going to enjoy it tonight, as we should, because this is not promised every year,” James told reporters. “There’s only two teams that can advance to the Finals every year. That means pretty much 30 players that only advance every year to the Finals. We’re going to enjoy it tonight, but we understand we have bigger fish to fry. We understand there’s a bigger goal, but we can’t take this for granted because this doesn’t happen every year to anybody.”

‘Job is Not Done’ Becomes Rallying Cry for Lakers

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A photo of James sitting on the court following the Lakers’ Western Conference clinching win quickly went viral on Saturday. There was a reason the 16-time NBA All-Star wasn’t jumping for joy despite the monumental accomplishment.

“The job is not done,” James said on Saturday. “But it’s great to appreciate the moments throughout the course of a journey. … I am extremely proud to be a part of this franchise getting back to where it belongs, playing and competing for championships. This is what I came here for.”

The “job is not done” statement has become a rallying cry for the Lakers on social media.

The NBA Finals tip-off on Wednesday from the bubble.

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