The ‘heart and soul’ of the Heat, Bam Adebayo is becoming a superstar before our eyes

Jimmy Butler didn’t blame Bam Adebayo for the Miami Heat’s Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics.

But he appreciated that Adebayo wanted to take responsibility for his performance.

“He didn’t let anybody down. We played bad as a whole,” Butler said. “But I love the fact that he wants that pressure. He wants all of that on his shoulders. That’s why he’s the heart and soul of this team.”

Following what Adebayo called a bad game offensively and defensively, the Heat center dominated Game 6 with his scoring and rebounding and catapulted the Heat to the NBA Finals with a 125-113 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday. Adebayo had 32 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. “That’s what stars do,” Butler said. “He’s put himself on the map since he’s come into the league, and he’s huge for us, will continue to be that for us, and he knows how special he has to play in these next four wins.” In the fourth quarter with the game on the line and the Celtics leading 96-90, Adebayo took over. He had 10 points and seven rebounds in the final 12 minutes.

“Adebayo deciding he’s just going to drive the ball put us in a real bind with the shooters around him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And their physicality is something that I’m not sure that we probably talked about it enough. They’re strong, they’re physical, they’re tough and, him in particular, dominated that fourth quarter. Even the plays where he didn’t score, his presence was so impactful and it put us in a real bind with the ability to guard him.” In the series, the third-year center led the Heat in scoring (21.8 points per game), rebounds (11 per game), assists (5.2 per game), steals (1.7 per game) and shooting percentage (60.8%).

“After Game 5, I put that on myself that my teammates would never have that type of performance from me again,” Adebayo said. “For those 24 hours, I was locked in, and my family know how I get when I play bad, or especially we lose, I put that on my shoulders because I feel like I could have done something different. (Sunday) I did something different and came out being extra aggressive and just locked in.” Adebayo made the All-Star team for the first time this season and finished a close second to New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram for the league’s Most Improved Player award in 2019-20.

Adebayo is just another example of the Heat’s front office savvy and the player development expertise of the coaching staff. The Heat selected Adebayo 14th in the 2017 draft. He was still a lottery pick, but other teams passed on him.