After a tough 102-82 loss, the Miami Heat find themselves tied with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, with game five set to take place in South Beach on May 25.
Neither team has managed to string together multiple wins at the midway point of this series, with both dropping a game following a statement victory. Both rosters have been created with a defensive mentality and rely on a select few stars to carry the offensive burden; Bam Adebayo is one of those stars for the Heat.
The multi-faceted big man is a metronome for the Heat’s offense, with his high-post facilitation and dribble-hand-off game often causing opposing defenses nightmares. Yet, against the Celtics, Adebayo has been anonymous for three of their four games, and his team’s potency has suffered.
Speaking to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, Heat lifer Udonis Haslem revealed aspects of a conversation he recently had with Adebayo, with a core focus being centered around owning a championship mentality.
“After we watched film for two hours, we sat and talked about what a champion is. What it means to be a champion. What it takes to be a champion. What you have to go through to be a champion. It’s hard. [I told him], ‘you’ll be down. You’re going to be out. There’s going to be a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion. Sometimes there will be doubt. All those emotions, you have to channel and manage those and be who you are,’” Haslem told Jackson in the interview.
Adebayo Challenged to be ‘A Winner’
After making such a big impact in Miami, it’s often easy to forget that Adebayo is currently working his way through his fifth season in the NBA and is still learning what it means to be a top-tier talent at this level.
Big men are often expected to develop slower than guards or wings. Still, Adebayo has been an impactful member of the rotation since day one, which has only served to increase the expectations surrounding him. Of course, a $163 million contract doesn’t do much to ease the pressure; just ask Duncan Robinson, who has struggled under the weight of his own contract extension this year.
During his interview with Jackson, Haslem touched on some advice he has extended to the New Jersey native, specifically about handling the expectations of being a lead player on a team that demands excellence.
“There’s a lot that comes with making $163 million. There are a lot of expectations. But I told Bam the expectations that come with $163 million is just be a winner. You just be a winner! You be the kid you’ve been. You be the kid we gave the $163 million to because we know that kid can lead us to winning with the way he impacts the game. That’s all I told Bam,” Haslem told Jackson during the interview.
Adebayo has made the playoffs four times throughout his first five years in the NBA, making the finals in 2020 – so he understands the grind of the post-season. But, much like that 2020 ‘bubble season,’ the Celtics now stand in his way of a shot a glory; the only difference is that Boston is a far better team this time around, and the Heat center needs to bring his ‘A-Game’ on both sides of the floor.
To the Victor, Goes the Spoils
Game five between the Heat and Celtics is going to be a pivotal point in the series between these two Eastern Conference Titans, as both teams will be fighting to take control of their fate.
Whoever wins on May 25 will be one victory away from making the NBA finals and will be considered the favorites to win it all. Of course, Boston isn’t going to roll over and let Miami snatch their chance of glory away from them. Instead, the Heat will need to claw and scratch on every possession to earn their shot against the eventual winners of the Western Conference Finals.
With so much pressure on the remaining games of the series, Adebayo and Jimmy Butler will be expected to carry a heavy burden on both ends of the floor. Still, the six-foot-nine center will need to improve on his 14 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game averages and begin to show the world what he’s capable of against an elite defensive unit.
After Boston’s game four victory, Jayson Tatum noted that the series has now become a ‘best of three,’ and both teams will be coming out ready to do battle once game five gets underway on May 25.