I placed my lone wager for the day early Tuesday evening. Nothing over the top, just twenty bucks on a two-team parlay: Celtics minus the two, Denver Nuggets plus the seven-and-a-half. The twenty bucks, if it hit, was to come back the standard fifty and change.
Although the Miami Heat, Boston’s opponent for the night, had easily dispatched the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in only five games, putting into question the Greek Freak’s future in that city, I still liked the Celtics to win Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals. No slouches themselves, Boston had just disposed of the Kawhi-Leonard-less defending NBA champions. Most figured Boston-Miami to be a closely-contested series but when you’re getting a hot Celtics team going against a hotter, albeit lower-seeded, Miami team, I didn’t think a single basket was all that much to lay.
Work was hectic that night. Between trying to serve customers, paying attention to the Lightning game with one eye and playoff basketball with another, I can only say the little I saw of Boston-Miami meant this series would live up to the hype. Neck and neck, the whole way.
Boston got out to a substantial early lead, then blew it, the regained it and lost it again. Then came overtime and the block to end all blocks.
Bam, just like that!
You know a play is special when you don’t mind losing a wager over it. This was that kind of play.
The Game One see-saw battle between the Eastern Conference’s lone remaining teams came down to a final possession. Boston’s best player Jayson Tatum had failed to lead his team to victory in regulation, launching a three-pointer from well outside his range with the hopes of it going in.
With twelve seconds left in overtime, in a similar position to tie the game or give his team the victory, Tatum shook his defender on the perimeter and drove right towards the basket. That lane was wide open… until it wasn’t.
From the opposite side of the floor came a man who is quickly making a name for himself, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo. Adebayo is not your traditional center. He stands only 6’9” but in case you missed it, he sure can defend. Must be that 7’1’” wingspan and natural instinct for the rim.
With seconds remaining, as Tatum reared back to slam home the basketball, and at a minimum send the game into double overtime, Adebayo met him, with his left hand, and rejected Tatum’s shot clean in what’s sure to be a poster hanging in every teenager’s wall in South Florida as early as this weekend.
It was one of the nastiest, cold-blooded blocks I’ve ever seen. Dikembe’s wagging finger would wholeheartedly approve.
Magic Johnson, who knows a little bit about playoff basketball, agreed. He immediately took to the internet, tweeting that Bam’s otherworldly rejection was “the best defensive play he’d ever seen in the playoffs.” Stout words for a stouter block.
I took to my memory banks to recall a timelier post-season rejection, coming up with Tayshaun Prince’s block of Reggie Miller (2004) and LeBron’s block of Andre Iguodala (2016), both of which took place in the final seconds of post-season games. However, both those blocks came from defenders chasing aging veterans from behind. Adebayo’s block came square against a 22-year old Jayson Tatum who can leap out of the gym. Unfortunately for Tatum, so can Bam.
I must have watched the block forty to fifty times. I still couldn’t get enough so I’ll post it here for you now (in case for some reason you haven’t seen it) and for me (so I can watch it fifty more times). The block was so athletic and so perfectly timed that after watching one particular replay online from a different angle, I had to double-check to see if it was a video game re-enactment. It wasn’t. It was all Bam!
In a game that over-celebrates the dunk, this defensive play was as impressive and forceful as any dunk I’ve ever seen. It was the kind of block that could turn a series. A tone-setter. It was the kind of block that, if Tatum is not of sharp mind and spirit, can affect his confidence moving forward. If a crane kick to the face can send Johnny Lawrence into a thirty-year tailspin, imagine what that Bam block could do for Tatum.
Just knowing that Adebayo is down there somewhere protecting that rim could affect how aggressive Boston is from here on out. That’s not something they can afford to let happen. Not when a trip to the Finals is on the line.
So, Miami won the game and I lost the wager. But I got my money’s worth. We all did. Bam, just like that!