Heat center Bam Adebayo injured his left arm late in his team’s Game 4 Eastern Conference finals win over the Celtics, and it didn’t look good at the time. He basically let it dangle by his side while staying on the court during the final few minutes. The Heat have consistently declined to elaborate on the injury, the main indicator that he is OK is the fact that he is still playing. But he played Game 5 wearing a protective sleeve, and it was one of his least effective games of these playoffs.
The fact that he still had 13 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists shows how dominant he has been, but for the Heat to move on to the Finals, they will need more. Daniel Theis got the better of the matchup during Boston’s dominant second half, and that’s simply not a duel that Miami can afford to lose. Adebayo said the Game 5 loss was his fault, a notion Heat coach Erik Spoelstra dismissed on Saturday.
The Heat have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions with Adebayo on the bench in this series, a startling figure for a team that holds a 3-2 lead. But that figure provides an example of how essential he is to this team’s operation.
Theis played almost the entire second half of Game 5, helping finally slow down Adebayo’s dunk parade on pick-and-rolls. But Enes Kanter’s strong play in the first half of that game will almost certainly bring him another opportunity in Game 6.
Kanter is a bruising force in the paint and can feast against Miami’s small frontline, and he typically gets his chances when Adebayo sits. But he is a defensive liability in the Adebayo matchup and there will be some crossover, so a potential stretch involving the two in Game 6 could go along way toward determining Adebayo’s effectiveness for the night, as well as his team’s hopes of moving on to the Finals.