Oladipo still 'running through it' after inspiring Heat to series victory

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Victor Oladipo reflected on the difference a year can make as the injury-plagued star inspired the Miami Heat to the victory they needed to close out their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.

It has been a luckless period for Oladipo, who has appeared in just 96 of a possible 309 regular-season NBA games over the past four years due to a combination of knee and quadriceps issues.

This season alone Oladipo has featured in only eight regular-season matches for the Heat but with Kyle Lowry (hamstring) and Jimmy Butler (inflammation in the right knee) both absent for Game 5, he stepped up to help the Heat to a 97-94 triumph and 4-1 series victory.

Oladipo had a game-high 23 points along with three assists and three steals. It was the first time he had contributed 20 points in a playoff game since playing against the Heat back in the NBA bubble in 2020 when featuring for the Indiana Pacers.

Speaking after the game, Oladipo reflected on his journey saying in quotes reported by ESPN: "A year ago today I was expecting and waiting for my next surgery.

"I remember a year ago today, around this time last year, 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. And now, God has put me in this position today so I just made the most of it.

"I could have done two things. I could have stopped. Or I could have ran right through it and I'm still running through it."

Speaking to NBA TV, Oladipo added his belief this is just the beginning for him.

"There's nothing I can't handle," he said. "At the end of the day, I feel like I can come back and get through anything.

"So, when they told me I needed to start tonight, I just stepped up to the plate and did everything I could to help my team win.

"I credit my coaching staff and my teammates for believing in me, my family, my God in heaven for getting me through. It's only the beginning."

It was a real team effort for the Heat with Max Strus putting up 15 points, including a special personal 10-0 streak from 2:29 in the second quarter to 1:22.

Bam Adebayo also had 20 points on the back of 7-for-11 shooting and pitched in with 11 rebounds.

"Everybody that played had their fingerprints on this. We clearly had some adversity in this game not having Kyle or Jimmy, and our group doesn't even blink," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

"That's not even something we have to address. We just pivot and put in the game plan and everybody gets ready and tapes their ankles and gets out there and competes."

The Heat can now look forward to an Eastern Conference semi-final match up against either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Toronto Raptors – the former leading the latter 3-2 in that series.

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