ORLANDO • For the 44 hours between the end of Game 5 and the start of Game 6, Bam Adebayo engaged in self-flagellation. He blamed himself for the Miami Heat's inability to close out the Boston Celtics last Friday.
On Sunday, Adebayo had a career-high 32 points and 14 rebounds, and Miami booked their trip to the National Basketball Association Finals with a 125-113 win over the Celtics near Orlando.
"I was locked in. My family knows how I get when I play bad - especially if we lose - I put that on my shoulders," said the centre, who led the team with an average of 21.8 points per game during the Eastern Conference finals, but was held to 13 points in his previous outing.
"I let my teammates down in Game 5. So I just had to realign myself with who I really want to become, and I just showed that tonight. You say you haven't seen me be a scorer in the fourth before."
He scored 10 points in the final quarter, when teammate Tyler Herro came alive with 11 of his 19 points. Including dribble hand-offs, Adebayo was involved in 14 straight fourth-quarter points for the Heat.
Miami trailed by six with 9min 18sec remaining. Midway through the final period, Adebayo was fouled on a lay-up and made the free throw to put them up 101-100 and they would not trail again.
"(Adebayo) in particular dominated that fourth quarter," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Even the plays where he didn't score, his presence was so impactful and it put us in a bind."
Jimmy Butler finished with 22 points and Andre Iguodala scored a season-high 15 as the Heat advanced to the Finals for the first time since 2014.
The fifth seeds will face 16-time champions Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 tomorrow. They are the lowest seeded team to reach the championship series since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.
"We'll have a very healthy respect for our next opponent," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who won championships in 2012 and 2013 when Lakers star LeBron James played for Miami. "We know who we're facing."
Jaylen Brown had 26 points, Jayson Tatum 24 with a career-high 11 assists and Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker 20 apiece for the 17-time champions Celtics, who could not set up a Finals match-up between the two most storied franchises in NBA history.
I HAD TO MAKE IT UP
I let my teammates down in Game 5. So I just had to realign myself with who I really want to become, and I just showed that tonight.
BAM ADEBAYO, Heat centre, on redeeming himself after a poor 13-point display in Game 5 of the East finals.
"Miami deserves a lot of credit. They're super physical, super tough and very savvy," added Stevens. "I think they're the best team in the East and deserve to be representing the East, the way that they've played."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE