Bam Adebayo has had time to reflect on the Miami Heat’s loss in the 2023 NBA Finals, and he thinks he knows why they couldn’t ultimately capture the NBA championship that was won by the Denver Nuggets.
“I feel like we just came up short because we had [among the most] injuries in the 2022-23 season,” Adebayo told ESPN. “[Through] all those ups and downs throughout the season…I feel like fatigue had a toll.”
Adebayo has a point, with the Heat looking like they ran out of gas in the five-game loss to the Nuggets. After Miami needed just five games to eliminate the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, it took six games to defeat the New York Knicks in the second round before needing seven games to get past the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami squandered an excellent chance to get some rest before the NBA Finals by failing to close out Boston earlier than it did. The Heat took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series before losing three straight to get perilously close to becoming the first NBA team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games.
They did recover to win Game 7, but it left them only two days of rest before the Finals began. By comparison, the Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and had nine days off before facing the Heat.
Miami lost third-leading scorer Tyler Herro almost immediately after the playoffs began when he injured his hand in Game 1 against the Bucks. He did not play the rest of the postseason. Heat star Jimmy Butler sprained his ankle in Game 1 against the Knicks and missed Game 2 of that series, and Gabe Vincent was injured in Game 4 against the Celtics and then sat out Game 5.
As Adebayo said, those setbacks followed an arduous regular season, with the Heat finishing 44-38 and having to go through two play-in games to even make it into the playoffs. The 26-year-old center managed to play 75 regular season games, but Vincent missed 14 games, Herro missed 15 and Butler missed 18.
The Heat are looking to fortify their lineup by trying to add star guard Damian Lillard this offseason, but trade talks with the Portland Trail Blazers have been very quiet recently despite the fact the 33-year-old has made it very clear he wants to play for Miami.
Perhaps the lessons learned by Adebayo and the rest of the Heat in last season’s playoffs can in some way pay off with better injury luck and a championship this season.