Although the Miami Heat had remained firmly in the driver’s seat throughout their first-round playoff series against the Hawks, they were faced with a stiff challenge in Game 5. Specifically, the club was tasked with finishing off Atlanta without the aid of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry.
While a lesser team might concede a game with 38.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 10.6 assists being ripped from its starting five, the Heat had a not-so-secret weapon at their disposal in Victor Oladipo.
Playing the most minutes he has seen since returning from his latest quad surgery in March, the former All-Star turned in a vintage performance, scoring a team-best 23 points while adding three assists and three steals. As a result, Miami was able to close out the series in a timely fashion with a 97-94 win.
After the game, Oladipo couldn’t help but marvel at the journey he has made to get to this point.
Oladipo Sounds off on His Injury Struggles
As it happens, the last time Oladipo scored 20-plus points in a playoff game was against the Heat in the Orlando bubble in August of 2020. That he was able to do it again after changing teams twice, reaggravating his quad and undergoing another months-long rehab process was a humbling experience for the baller.
“It’s a blessing at the end of the day to be able to play the game I love,” Oladipo said postgame.
“A year ago today I was expecting and waiting for my next surgery. I was sitting in a dark room by myself and just broke down. Not because I quit, but because I was at the lowest point I could be at. Now, God has put me in this position today. So, I just made the most of it.”
Oladipo doesn’t know why he has encountered such bad luck from an injury standpoint. But, clearly, he’s more interested in moving forward and making the most of the chance he has to play now than figuring out why things went awry.
“I can’t really explain why I’m going through what I went through. I can’t really explain why I’m here today, but I’m staying in the moment and making every moment mean something,” he said. “Just going out there and playing hard, man.”
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Work Left to Do
Oladipo is applying that same forward-looking mindset to the Heat and their efforts to capture another NBA championship. It was nice to dispatch the Hawks — a team that made it to the East Finals a year ago — of course, but the path to the big, gold trophy remains a treacherous one.
Moreover, Oladipo still has work to do individually, his recent outburst notwithstanding.
“We had a great win, a great series, but the job isn’t done yet. There’s still a lot more basketball left. We just gotta keep getting better. That’s what I’m focused on doing is getting better. It’s my ninth game. So, I’ve got a lot of room to improve.”