Jimmy Butler has been the best player for the Miami Heat throughout their surprise playoff run, but since the NBA Finals started, that title has belonged to Bam Adebayo. Miami's star big man is leading the Heat in both points (23.5) and rebounds (11) per game while dishing out 4.5 assists per game and defending two-time MVP Nikola Jokic on the other end of the floor.
Miami entered the series as a significant underdog. After two games, the series is tied at one game apiece thanks largely to Adebayo's efforts on both ends. With Game 3 looming, the Heat have reclaimed home-court advantage and can win the whole thing just by protecting their home floor three times. If they do, Butler is already handing the credit to Adebayo.
"He's gonna be the reason we win the championship," Butler said of his teammate on Tuesday.
The Heat have needed an incredible series out of Adebayo just to remain competitive in the Finals because Butler, seemingly still dealing with the lingering effects of an ankle injury suffered in the second round against the New York Knicks, has not looked like himself.
Butler is averaging 17 points on 39.4% shooting through two Finals games thus far, and while he has picked up some of the slack as a passer, rebounder and defender, Miami is probably going to need to need him to pick up his scoring if it wants to beat Denver three more times.
As well as Adebayo has played thus far in the Finals, he averaged only 14.9 points per game in the Eastern Conference finals. Denver isn't a particularly strong defensive team against opposing bigs, but Adebayo's role has never been to lead the Heat in scoring. He is an all-around contributor, and that he has managed to maintain his performance in virtually every other area on the floor while also increasing his offensive usage is a testament to just how well he's played against the Nuggets. Butler is right about one thing: if Miami does win this thing, Adebayo's performance will probably be among the biggest reasons why.