Miami Heat need aggressive Bam Adebayo to beat Celtics

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) reacts after dunking the ball against the Boston Celtics(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) reacts after dunking the ball against the Boston Celtics(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports) /

Bam Adebayo has averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 11 games in the 2023 playoffs. For being Miami’s No. 2 option, Adebayo has had a good playoff run. Now, Miami is in the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics for the second consecutive year.

Adebayo since entering the league has routinely played well against Boston. This year Adebayo averaged 25.0 points, 9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in four games. In this series, Adebayo needs to be more consistent offensively, especially while Jimmy Butler deals with a nagging ankle injury and Tyler Herro remains sidelined with a broken finger.

If last year’s conference finals taught us anything, it’s that Adebayo cannot have games where he’s not looking to score. In Game 1 against the Celtics, Adebayo only attempted four shots and in Game 2 took just six.

Over the last two years, Adebayo has worked on his midrange jumper as a counter to defenses trying to take away the rim. Against Boston, he can find success in the non-restricted paint area.

Boston will play some drop coverage — similar to Milwaukee in the first round. When they do, Adebayo needs to take those shots. If they crowd the paint, Adebayo’s instinct is to get teammates involved. Striking the balance between being aggressive and facilitating open 3-pointers is Adebayo’s challenge in this series.

(The Heat will also run a lot of pick-and-roll with Adebayo and, when the Celtics switch smaller defender onto him, Adebayo needs to be aggressive in getting to the hole for more efficient looks.)

Defensively, we know what we’re getting from Adebayo already. His defense was crucial in guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round and battling with a supersized Knicks frontcourt in the second round.

That’s been the case for a long time and will be in this series. But for the Heat to get over the hump and avoid elimination at the hands of the Celtics for the second straight season, Adebayo will need to be a bonafide second scoring option and average more than the 15 points and 11.3 attempts he averaged in last season’s conference finals.

In Game 3 last year in Boston, Adebayo put up one of his better playoff games: 31 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Perhaps most importantly, he took 22 shots. Adebayo won’t record those kind of numbers every game this series, but he needs to be aggressive.

With the Celtics likely looking to take away Butler first, Adebayo will have plenty of opportunities to score in this series.  Butler needs another running mate to beat Boston, and Adebayo has all the tools to help Miami get back to the Finals.

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