Update: According to multiple reports, Goran Dragic will not return for Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. Bam Adebayo, however, will:
Bam Adebayo WILL play tonight for the Heat.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) October 6, 2020
Original story continues below.
Miami Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo is planning to return for Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Tuesday. Adebayo has missed the last two games with a neck injury he suffered in Game 1, as did Goran Dragic, who Shams Charania of The Athletic reports will also try and get back on the floor for Game 4:
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic will warm up before Game 4 of NBA Finals tonight to attempt to play, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. If Dragic can tolerate pain with torn plantar fascia in foot, he will play.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 6, 2020
The Los Angeles Lakers currently lead the series 2-1.
Dragic’s injury is more serious, so it’s unclear what exactly his return would mean, or if he’ll be able to at all. But either way, adding a player of Adebayo’s caliber to the mix obviously has its positives, at least for the Heat. However, it might not be as simple as putting him back out on the floor. Adebayo hasn’t played in almost a week and his status wasn’t updated until Monday afternoon. That probably means that he’ll be playing through the injury, as opposed to making his return from one.
If Adebayo is hobbled in Game 4, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be any more impactful than he was in Game 1, when he posted a defensive rating of 130.2. The Heat’s defensive rating improved by 14.5 points (per 100 possessions) with Adebayo on the bench.
Anthony Davis might only be an inch taller than Adebayo, but Davis looked massive when he was matched up against him in Game 1. With how Davis performed in Game 3, expect him to go at Adebayo early and often, especially if it’s clear Adebayo isn’t moving well.
Adebayo’s return could also limit the spacing that allowed the Heat to dominate Game 3 offensively. Adebayo is a lot of things, but a shooter isn’t one of them, and the lack of spacing with Adebayo in the lineup could make Miami easier to defend.
That’s not to say the Heat will be substantially worse with Adebayo on the floor — and if they are, Erik Spoelstra has shown he’s smart enough to turn to his other players. However, to say the Heat are definitely going to be better because Adebayo will be back in the lineup is probably inaccurate under these specific circumstances. They might be, but they also might not. We’ll get a look when Lakers and Heat tip-off at 6 p.m. PT on ABC.