Miami Heat All-Star big man Bam Adebayo took the blame for his team’s 121-108 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.
“I played like s—,” Adebayo said after the game in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. “Bottom line. I put that game on me. It’s not my teammates’ fault, it’s not my coaches’ fault, it’s me. … I missed too many shots I should have made. Put that one on me.”
Adebayo, playing with a sleeve over his left arm after apparently suffering an injury to it at the end of the Heat’s Game 4 victory, almost registered a triple-double with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in 38 minutes, but he did not play with the same activity that he usually does up and down the floor, particularly at the defensive end.
“I wasn’t being the defensive anchor that I should have been,” Adebayo said. “I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today.”
Adebayo wasn’t the only player who was a step behind in the second half of Friday’s game as the Heat watched a 58-51 halftime lead get erased by a third quarter in which the Celtics dominated 41-25 and never looked back on their way to cutting Miami’s series lead to 3-2. The loss marked the 18th time this season the Heat have blown a lead of 10 or more points, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. That’s tied for the most by a team over the past two seasons, including the playoffs.
The numbers also back up that Adebayo struggled more than usual on Friday night. Adebayo gave up 1.65 points per direct pick-and-roll as the screener defender, according to Second Spectrum data. That’s the fourth-worst efficiency given up in a game in his career with a minimum of at least 10 screens in a game. Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler said he was frustrated with his team’s effort but stood up for Adebayo when he was told the 23-year-old tried to take the blame for the loss.
“It’s not [on Adebayo],” Butler said. “It’s on everybody. He does so much for us that it could feel like that at times, but it’s definitely not on him. It’s on us as a whole. We all understand that because nobody was playing the way we’re supposed to play, the way we have to play in order for us to win. Nobody. And for him to say that, I respect it, I love him for it. But he can’t do it by himself — we got to be there with him.”
When asked what specific injury he was dealing with in his left arm, Adebayo said only, “I’m good.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also brushed off the notion that Adebayo was favoring the arm at all.
“He wasn’t favoring it,” Spoelstra said. “We’re not making any excuses. Boston outplayed us in the second half. We probably outplayed them in the first half and their outplaying of us in the second half was two or three times what we did in the first half. Forty-eight minutes, that’s a long game and you have to play consistently a lot longer than we did tonight.”
Butler said he would speak to Adebayo before Sunday’s Game 6 and offer his younger teammate a little pep talk.
“I will,” Butler said. “But I think he knows you can’t get stuck on this game now. We learn from it, it’s something of the past. But we’re going to need him to be who he is on Sunday. We need everybody to be that way. We’re gonna watch film, we’re gonna learn from it, not saying we already don’t know what went wrong, but we’ll be ready to go. We will fix it.”
Spoelstra also brushed off the notion that the Heat were concerned about dropping a 3-1 series lead much the same way the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers each have done against the Denver Nuggets already in the postseason bubble.
“I don’t think those series have anything to do with this,” Spoelstra said. “Our guys are well aware, we have great respect for Boston. We’re not expecting it to be easy. You have to earn it. And we’ll just learn from this, go to work tomorrow and try to get ready for the next one.”
Adebayo is confident he will be better in Game 6 as well.
“I got to be better,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. That’s it. There’s no excuses to this … this game is on me. I played terrible and that can’t happen.”