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Adebayo to make it a ‘dogfight’ as Miami Heat tee up Boston Celtics series

The Miami Heat will face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and Bam Adebayo has pledged to make that series a ‘dogfight’ after helping his team past the Chicago Bulls.

The Heat – who went all the way to the NBA Finals as the eighth seed in the East last year – clinched that same spot by beating the Bulls 112-91 in Friday’s do-or-die Play-In game.

That was despite them being without leading points scorer Jimmy Butler, who suffered a left knee injury in Miami’s first Play-In game – a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers – on Wednesday.

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With the Heat deprived of their main offensive threat, coach Erik Spoelstra took the defensive decision to have Adebayo guard Chicago’s leading scorer DeMar DeRozan on Friday, and he produced a big performance to limit his opponent to 22 points and four assists.

With at least four meetings with top-seeded Boston now in the diary, Miami will need more of the same from the center in the playoffs.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Adebayo said of that series against Boston. “It’s going to be a battle.

“It’s going to be in the mud. It’s not going to be pretty basketball. That’s usually how it is when we play that team.”

Adebayo finished with 13 points of his own in support of Tyler Herro (24) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. (21), but his coach was most impressed by his defensive contribution.

“What we needed was inspiration,” Spoelstra told ESPN. “Bam was our most inspiring player, especially with Jimmy being out. The two of them are our most inspiring players.

“They always have been. When they’re locked in at their highest level competitively, we feel like we can beat anybody.

“With Jimmy out, I had to. We felt like DeRozan is a guy who can totally take over a game in a one-game deal. If our most inspiring player has to make an impact, it would be against their best scorer.”

Friday’s game could prove to be DeRozan’s last with Chicago, with the 34-year-old due to become a free agent after three years with the team.

The Bulls have now missed the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, and DeRozan will prioritise competing for championships when he makes a decision on his future.

Asked what the Bulls needed to offer him this offseason, DeRozan said: “A team that gives us a chance to make a run. We had all the pieces in play. I don’t know if a black cat ran in front of us or we broke a mirror.

“But I think it’s just about giving us the chance to be competitive and putting a team on the floor that can go out there and compete with teams, not just fight for a Play-In game.”

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