After winning their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals to face their next opponent. They did it without Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler. Lowry was out with a hamstring injury, and Butler was sidelined because of right knee inflammation. Starting in Butler’s place was Victor Oladipo, who didn’t play in Games 1-3 and only appeared in Game 4 because of Lowry’s absence. In Game 5, Oladipo scored 23 points and recorded three steals in his first postseason start. This was the moment Oladipo waited all year for.
“A year ago today, I was waiting for my next surgery,” Oladipo said on Tuesday. ” I was sitting in a dark room by myself and just broke down, not because I quit, but because I was at the lowest point I could be at. Now, God has put me in this position today. I made the most of it.”
Star was Shining
Oladipo looked very much like the star he was with the Indiana Pacers. The burst was there for him whenever he attacked the paint. Oladipo’s dribble penetration forced the defense to collapse multiple times and create open looks for his teammates. He is also another versatile defender that can guard at the point of attack. He showed that multiple times in Game 5 against the Hawks’ guards and wing players. Most importantly, he provided a huge offensive boost in stretches where Miami’s offense was lacking.
Ready for a New Role
This has been a new role for Oladipo, who’s appeared in nine games for Miami all year. A few years ago, he was the franchise cornerstone of the Pacers. He appeared in two All-star games in 2018 and 2019. Additionally, he was named the most improved player in the 2017-18 season. Before he could take that next step, he had a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right knee in 2019. He was traded to the Houston Rockets during the 2019-20 season before being shipped again to Miami, where he suffered the same knee injury.
Now, Oladipo returns to a whole new situation. Miami was already an elite contender without him. They had a good season from their top four players and good minutes from their role players as well. This is why Miami was able to be patient with Oladipo as he recovered from his surgery. Minutes on this Miami team are hard to come by, but head coach Erik Spoelstra hasn’t been shy about making quick adjustments based on the opponent. If Duncan Robinson isn’t hitting threes, Oladipo can provide a scoring punch with his dribble penetrations and point of attack defense.
We haven’t seen the Heat’s “Death Defensive Lineup” of Lowry-Butler-Oladipo-PJ Tucker–Bam Adebayo as much. The last time we saw the lineup was late in the fourth quarter against the back in March. However, that was only in two minutes and the game was out of reach by then. It’s uncertain whether Oladipo’s Game 5 performance will cement him in the Heat’s main rotation. But Oladipo has proven he’s reliable whenever his number is called.
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