September 28, 2020, 3:23 am
It’s done. It’s over. The Eastern Conference Finals are now officially in the books. The Miami Heat downed the Boston Celtics 125-113 in Game 6 to claim the title and punched their ticket to the NBA Finals.
It was a well-fought series and in the end, the team with the more complete depth, the better execution of their game plan, arguably the better coach, came out victorious.
With all due respect to the Celtics, who did play their hearts out in this one – with four players scoring 20 points or more – the Heat brought the fire needed to finish off the series. Bam Adebayo went off for 32 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, redeeming himself after taking the blame for Game 5’s loss. In his own words during the ECF award ceremony, “I found a way to make plays,” and that he did. Adebayo was all over the floor, grabbing rebounds in the paint, running down the court and either taking the ball to the rim or finding an open teammate. His athleticism and versatility as a player made a huge game-changing difference in tonight’s affair. While Jimmy Butler may be considered to be the team’s leader and overall “big brother,” the team’s ability to win is closely tied to how well Adebayo is able to perform.
Adebayo may have played like a superstar, but he wasn’t Miami’s only hero. Jimmy Butler logged 39 minutes and finished the evening with 22 points and eight assists. Tyler Hero came off the bench and put up 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists of his own. It was, at the end of the day, it was a complete team effort, as guys like Andre Iguodala pushed their game to another level to get this win done. Iggy, who is now on his way to his sixth NBA finals appearance, was feeling it and went 4-for-4 from deep (5-of-5 FGs) and came away with 15 points off the bench. He hasn’t been much to look at on the stat sheet, but tonight the seasoned veteran made his presence felt in a big way.
The Celtics put up a good fight, not just in this Game 6 but all throughout the series. Tonight, Jaylen Brown led the charge with 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists, three treys and three steals. His usual partner in crime, Jayson Tatum struggled, making 9-of-26 shots from the field to achieve his 24 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker chipped in 20 points, apiece.
The Celtics couldn’t stop or even slow down Adebayo effectively. They threw a combination of Daniel Theis and Grant Williams at him, but to no avail.
Moving on and looking forward, the Heat are now in a collision course with the Los Angeles Lakers. The last time coach Erik Spoelstra went to the NBA Finals he had a talented player named LeBron James on his team. This time around, that same player will be playing on the other side of the floor, making for quite the interesting narrative indeed. The Lakers have LeBron and the hands-down best center on the planet in Anthony Davis, both of whom have been surrounded by a diverse stable of role-players who bring a strong defensive mindset to the game.
While defense may be the name of the game for L.A., that playbook is not much unlike the Heat’s game plan. As the fifth seed coming out of the East, they’ve had to scrap their way to the top. Leading this scraping charge is their prized scrapper, Jimmy Butler, who will fight (play) tooth and nail to finally achieve his dream of winning an NBA championship. He and Bam will be the focal point of the Heat’s attack, but all in all the finals matchup could and will likely boil down to how well certain X-factors perform. The Lakers will have Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, who will need to make things happen on defense, covering their respective responsibilities. On the Heat’s side, they’ll need rookie Tyler Herro to grow up instantly and be ready to take on much more weight on his shoulders. Goran Dragic will need to keep Father Time at bay and continue to play at an insane level. Then of course there’s the aforementioned Iguodala, who served as a “LeBron Stopper” during his time with the Warriors. His playoff and finals experience is priceless, especially for a young team like the Heat.