LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Jayson Tatum thought he had a dunk to tie the game.
Bam Adebayo had other ideas — and in the biggest moment of his young NBA career, Miami’s All-Star big man more than rose to the occasion.
Jimmy Butler’s three-point play with 12 seconds left put Miami ahead for good, Adebayo finished it off with a stunning rejection of Tatum at the rim on the ensuing Boston possession, and the Heat struck first in the Eastern Conference finals with a 117-114 win in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
“When you have great competition like this, you just have to make plays that you can’t even really explain,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And that was Bam tonight.”
The Heat were down by 13 in the opening minutes, down by 14 in the final quarter and felt like a bad call took the lead from them in the final seconds. They found a way in overtime, improving to an NBA-best 9-1 so far in these playoffs.
Goran Dragic scored 29 points, Jae Crowder scored 22, Butler had 20 and Adebayo had 18. But even after a night when Butler made a go-ahead 3-pointer late in regulation and had the go-ahead-for-good points again in overtime, he pointed at Adebayo for his favorite moment.
“Bam. That seals the game for us,” Butler said. “I love how he does any and everything that you ask him to do. I really do. You ask him to pass the ball, he does that. Score, he does that. Come up with a huge defensive stop, block, he does that. He’s a huge part to our winning. I’ve been saying it all year long and I’ll repeat it again.”
Kemba Walker’s basket with 23.2 seconds left in overtime put Boston up by one, before Butler muscled his way to the rim for a score while getting fouled by Tatum. The Celtics went to Tatum on the ensuing possession, only to watch him get denied by Adebayo.