SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Mackenzie Salmon looks at how Miami returned to relevancy and constructed the most dangerous team in the bubble.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bam Adebayo blamed himself for Miami’s Game 5 loss to Boston.
He can’t do that after Game 6.
The Miami center turned in a near-perfect game: 11-for-15 from the field, 10-for-11 from the foul line for a playoff career-high 32 points plus 14 rebounds as the Heat topped the Celtics 125-113 on Sunday, winning the Eastern Conference finals in a close series.
“He’s an elite competitor, and he’s as impactful as anyone in this association,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game.
The Heat are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014 and will play the Los Angeles Lakers for the title. Game 1 is Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
The Finals overflows with intriguing storylines and the glamour of two desirable coastal destinations – Miami and Los Angeles. Lakers star LeBron James will play his former team, who he helped to two championships in 2012 and 2013, and Heat president Pat Riley will go against the team he coached to four championships in the 1980s.
Miami becomes the first No. 5 seed to reach the NBA Finals. Had this been a normal playoffs, the Heat would’ve been the road team against Indiana, Milwaukee and Boston. But on a neutral site, the Heat were able to beat the higher seed in three consecutive series.
It was a tight series. In six games, the Celtics outscored the Heat 675-674.
It looked like Boston might force a Game 7.
The Celtics owned a 96-90 lead with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter. But the scoring of Tyler Herro and Adebayo and the playmaking of Jimmy Butler helped Miami take a 109-102 lead with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter. The Heat pulled away in the final minutes.
Herro, the rookie, had another strong game off the bench with 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Andre Iguodala had 15 points off the bench, and Butler had 22 points and eight assists.
Boston forward Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, delivered 11 assists and collected seven rebounds. Forward Jaylen Brown scored 26 points, and guards Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker each scored 20 points. Those four combined for 90 of Boston’s points, but it wasn’t enough against the Heat, who had six players in double figures.