Led by Adebayo, Heat’s young talent instrumental in securing Finals berth

Bam Adebayo scored a career-high 32 points while grabbing 14 rebounds and dropping five dimes as the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 125-113 Sunday evening to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.

Awaiting Miami will be a familiar face in LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who closed out the Denver Nuggets in five games Saturday.

The NBA Finals will begin Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Miami last made the NBA Finals with James still in the lineup as part of the celebrated team that made four straight Finals and won two, led by the current Lakers superstar, retired Heat legend Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen.

The Heat hadn’t advanced past the second round since James’ departure, but in just six seasons since he decided to head back home to Cleveland they’ve managed to re-tool and rebuild on the fly to once again compete for a championship.

Many of those pieces that have led Miami back to this point in their history took starring roles in its Game 6 victory over Boston. Here’s a few takeaways from the Heat’s big Eastern-Conference clinching victory.

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Heat get it done when it matters most

Before diving into the Heat in the future, it’s worth looking back at what they did in the game that got them to the Finals first. And the most important moment from Game 6 followed a relatively consistent trend seen across all but one of Miami’s wins in the series.

With 9:15 to play in the fourth quarter, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown converted a fast-break layup after stealing the ball from Tyler Herro to put Boston up six and looking poised to force a Game 7.

Instead, what happened was a 35-17 Heat run to close the game and run right over the Celtics to punch their tickets into the Finals.

As part of that run all the key pieces of Miami’s rebuild were involved, with Adebayo scoring six points, rookie Herro dropping all 11 of his fourth-quarter points during it, Duncan Robinson drilling a couple of key three-pointers and Jimmy Butler closing things out with nine points.

Outside of the big free agent splash of Butler, all of these names weren’t the most highly-regarded around the league heading into this season, but they were all instrumental in Miami’s win.

And on the flip side of this, while the young talent of the Heat managed to rise to the occasion, the Celtics appeared to wilt under the spotlight all series long — conceding not just this six-point lead, but also a 14-point one early in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and a 15-point advantage in Game 2.

The Celtics have a lot of talent, but just couldn’t seem to rise to the occasion when it mattered most.

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Bam vs. AD

Outside of his Game 5 blip, Adebayo was the best all-around player in the series, averaging a team-high 21.8 points, 11 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 60.8 per cent shooting from the floor while also coming up with highlight of the series — his game-saving block on Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt in Game 1 — and playing just overall, consistently great defence both as a rim protector and out on the perimeter.

As such, because of his rare combination of size, length, strength, athleticism and skill, his forthcoming matchup with Lakers centre Anthony Davis – who is every bit his equal in just about every category except passing – is intoxicating.

Like an old-school matchup, but in the modern era with both Adebayo and Davis exuding “unicorn” big man qualities because of their high skill level at their sizes. Davis probably has a better handle and shooting touch – certainly from outside – and Adebayo is an absolutely brilliant passer who the Heat can, and do, play out of similar to what the Nuggets do with Nikola Jokic.

This matchup is sure to be entertaining, at the very least.

Interesting stats heading into the Finals

Here’s some interesting stats from the conclusion of the Eastern Conference Finals for you to mull over:

• Though hailed as the team’s best player – and he’s still probably their most important – Butler never led Miami in scoring all series long. This is a good indication of the impact he has that goes beyond just getting buckets – despite his nickname.

• Andre Iguodala, who came up big in Game 6 scoring 15 points on perfect shooting from the field (including drilling four triples), is headed to his sixth straight Finals now. The first five, of course, were with the Golden State Warriors.

This stat is just about as impressive as the remarkable accomplishment from James who is competing in his ninth Finals in 10 years.

• Lastly, some Canadian content here for you:

Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Alexander on the Heat will represent Canada in the Finals, marking the 10th straight year a Canadian has been in the Finals.

Only seven Canadians in history have won a championship. Can these two add their names to this list?

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