The Miami Heat got back in the NBA Finals on Sunday night in impressive fashion as Jimmy Butler dropped 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to lead them to a 115-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3. With the series now 2-1 in favor of the Lakers, there’s a glimmer of hope for Miami — especially if star center Bam Adebayo can return to action.
Adebayo has been dealing with multiple upper-body injuries in the playoffs. He played through a shoulder injury in the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, and has been sidelined since midway through Game 1 with a neck strain. During a conference call with reporters Monday, Adebayo said he’s hopeful he can return to the court for Game 4, but it’s up to the medical staff to make the final call.
“I’m getting better,” Adebayo said. “It’s up to the coaches — well, not the coaching staff, but the medical staff. I’m trying to get back as quickly as possible, but they’re just trying to make sure I’m safe and I’m ready to play. So it’s really day-to-day, and when they say I’m ready to play, I’ll be out there. But yeah, it sucks sitting on the sidelines.”
Adebayo burst onto the scene this season as one of the league’s most improved players, but he’s really made a name for himself in the postseason, where he’s arguably been Miami’s best player at times. His unique level of versatility at both ends of the floor has made him a matchup nightmare for all of the Heat’s opponents, and Sunday night aside, the Heat have largely been a mess when he doesn’t play. His plus-9.5 net rating differential in the playoffs is the best of any regular member of the rotation.
It goes without saying that it would be huge for the Heat to get him back on the floor. But as Adebayo’s answers on Monday revealed, that’s true from a mental perspective as well as a basketball one. The two games he’s missed in this series are more than Adebayo has missed in the last two seasons combined.
“I don’t like missing games,” Adebayo said. “So if you’re wondering if I’m really injured, there you go, cause I play through bruises, I play through getting beat up. But it’s one of those things, like, I make it to my first finals and it’s like, ‘bro … we dream of things like that.’ So it’s been difficult for me mentally, because it hurts me that I can’t be out there and help my team try to collect more wins.
Not being able to take the floor with his teammates must be devastating after all the work he put in to reach this point. And being stuck inside the bubble doesn’t make the mental aspect any easier, since there’s no way to escape or take your mind off the situation.
Hopefully, for both his sake and the Heat’s, Adebayo will be able to return to the floor soon.