Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Bam Adebayo Deserves to be an All-Star

Ten of the 24 All-Star slots have been chosen. Fans, media and players each had a say in who got picked. It’s now on the league’s coaches to fill out the remaining spots. Snubs are expected, as they are every year, but some are sure to ruffle feathers.

The All-Star Game is an undignified popularity contest. I’d love to say I couldn’t care less who participates, but enough selections, or lack thereof, could make the difference on a potential hall of fame ballot.

For example, champion Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks is one of the league’s best two-way guards. He’s been a pro for 14 years and was an All-Star once, along with four defensive team selections. Holiday’s squads have won seven playoff series. If he retired today, I fear voters five years from now wouldn’t show his career the respect it deserves because he wasn’t a regular at the game when he should have been. Never mind his pro averages of 16 points with six assists and four rebounds per game.

The Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo is another stud who has gone unrecognized. He earned an All-Star bid in year three, the season Miami finished two wins shy of its fourth championship. In that campaign, he logged 15.9 points on 55.7% efficiency, along with 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 dimes a night. As a third-year player, 71.5% of his field goals were assisted.

Adebayo is much more polished offensively and a prolific scorer in the box. When he recognizes drop coverage with the ball, he takes a couple of dribbles and pulls up in the lane. After a pick, he’s waiting for the rock back to inflict severe damage on the rim. Through 46 games this season, Adebayo leads the NBA in points scored in the interior with 728.

A few years ago, Bam depended on teammates to help him score. This year, sixty percent of his field goals are assisted. He is now capable of creating his own shot.

He’s a legit 21 and 10 guy, plus a top-five defender in the league. In my book, those dudes are perennial All-Stars. In Adebayo’s case, he may not get in, and he’s been the best player on the team this year. He didn’t even get enough votes to show up on the first 10 names of the fans’ returns. That’s an indictment on Miami supporters for not voting enough for their guy. Leaving it up to the coaches is a coin flip.

The coaches who pick, of course, know more than the people covering the game for their careers or those watching for pleasure. But instructors watch film on the opponents the team is preparing for. Beat writers miss a lot of the action, too, when covering their team as a few games are going on.

The reason for making it or not might come down to the coaches watching enough film on Adebayo. Hopefully, in his case, they have because the tape is evidence of a big man who defends smaller forwards and guards at the perimeter. It shows a center that is the brain and backbone of Miami’s 2-3 zone.

The Heat’s best defenders next to Adebayo are Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo and Caleb Martin. Each of them has missed more time than #13. Butler has logged 36 of Miami’s 51 games. Oladipo has participated in 25 and Martin in 41. Adebayo has missed five games this year, but he’s been the most crucial reason the Heat have the best paint protection of 30 teams. His ability to stop the ball outside and bother a shot inside blows up opposing offenses.

Following Miami’s win at home over Boston on Jan.24, uncharacteristically, coach Erik Spoelstra said Adebayo should have been an All-Star last year and that he deserved it this season. “He missed five weeks. So what? He was playing at an All-Star level. There’s been other guys who have missed a month or five weeks and still got in…”

With the 14 remaining reserve spots set to be selected on Feb. 2, Adebayo has one more opportunity to show he belongs in the star-studded festivities. That will come on tour in Cleveland on Tuesday.









The Bam Adebayo disrespect only helps Miami

Every time I open up my Twitter app it’s filled with casuals comparing him to whoever scored more points than him that night.


I’ve had enough.


As if that’s not aggravating enough, it appears that ‘points per game’ Twitter is a microcosm of how (too) many NBA fans actually think. It’s the sole reason why Adebayo can’t be seen inside the top 10 for frontcourt All-Star votes. Kyle (Pink Sweater) Kuzma and Paolo (18-29) Banchero have more votes than him for crying out loud.


This sickness doesn’t stop with points either. The same argument can be applied to any other stat.


Take the Defensive Player of the Year race for example. Bam is the anchor for a top 5 defense and is the most versatile defender in the league. He makes guarding 1-5 look effortless at times.


Apparently, that doesn’t matter. Outside of Heat fans and media, you won’t hear anyone make the case for Bam. Those finalists are awarded to the players who average the most blocks per game.


(While we’re on the topic: ‘Points per game’ Twitter or “*insert stat* per game’ Twitter is reserved for only the most casual of casual NBA fans. It is the holy grail of casual. If you ever want to tell someone you don’t watch NBA games without telling them, just start your argument with per-game averages.)


End of rant.


Whichever way you slice it, Bam is often overlooked. And as frustrating as it is, it’s exactly what the Miami Heat need.


Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely want Bam to be celebrated for his elite on-court play. As a matter of fact, his lack of recognition and accolades is the inspiration behind this piece.


But among all of the disrespect, a new Bam is unlocked. It’s a Bam with a chip on his shoulder. And it’s dangerous for the rest of the league. The disrespect fuels him. It ignites a fire on the court that can’t be contained.


That’s exactly what happened in Tuesday’s win over the Celtics. With Miami’s offense continuing to struggle from three (and every spot on the court for that matter), Bam took things into his own hands.


He dropped 30 points and 14 rebounds on 12-22 shooting (21 points and 12 rebounds in the second half) and willed Miami to a win without Jimmy Butler.


Possession after possession, he carried Miami’s offense while anchoring their defense. Elite.


In his post-game press conference, he was asked if making an All-Star statement on national television was on his mind: “No, not really. It was the rivalry. They booted us from the Eastern Conference Finals last year”, Adebayo said.


While some of that may be true, I’m not buying it as the sole reason for his aggressiveness.


To get a real glimpse of Bam’s mentality on Tuesday, we need to shift our focus to seconds after the final buzzer sounded. With sweat dripping off his face, TNT’s Jared Greenberg closed the post-game interview by saying “hopefully we’ll see you in Salt Lake in just about a month.”


Bam responded by saying, “I should be in Salt Lake”. A direct contrast to his mentality and comments when asked by the media.


He wasn’t done.


Shortly after, he spoke to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Bam didn’t hold back:


“There are guys that shouldn’t even be on that list”, he stated.


“But it’s fan voting. That’s what it is and you got to live with that. I mean, right now I’m in a position where it’s based off the coaches in the East. Now that, I’m going to be [upset] about if they tell me somebody else has played better than me this year considering I’m leading the NBA in paint points and I’m one of the reasons why we’re winning. So for me, it’s just that fan voting is fan voting. I’ll let that be. But when it comes to coaches voting, that’s when I feel like I deserve to be in it.”


Go off, Bam! Call them out. This isn’t passive. This is cut-throat talk from a max player.


Regardless of how many times he plays it cool, Adebayo cares. He feels the disrespect. And when he feels disrespected, you get Tuesday night’s stat line.


That’s exactly what this team needs; an aggressive Bam.


Miami is 20-10 in games where he shoots at least 15 shots.


To all the casual fans, coaches, and players – continue to fade Bam all you want. It only makes the Miami Heat dangerously potent.


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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Leave Celtics Green With Envy

True to form, the Heatles found themselves in their 22nd game, decided by five points or fewer. Despite any shortcomings this outfit has had this season, supporters, the press and team personnel are almost always guaranteed to be biting nails or sitting at the edge of their seats witnessing a dub or tumble.

On Tuesday, for TNT’s primetime matchup of Celtics @ Heat, both squads were undermanned in this fourth encounter of the year. Boston won the first two on Oct. 21 in Miami and Nov. 30 at home. On Dec. 2, the Heat won in overtime on the road.

The first quarter moved along at a snail’s pace because of 16 fouls committed by both teams and 21 free throws taken. Almost five minutes into the game, Boston had the luxury of the bonus. Then, on one possession, the Celtics committed four penalties in 28 seconds. Not even disgraced house rep of New York’s third district George Santos perpetrated that many and so quickly.

Through 12 minutes, Max Strus’ sharp shooting carried his group offensively. He splashed a catch-and-release triple on each wing, then dribbled once after pump-faking Grant Williams out of bounds for a trifecta in the corner. Attacking the drop, he turned the corner of Bam Adebayo’s screen and got into the lane for a nine-foot jumper in front of Robert Williams, protecting the rim.

As the half continued, Bam Adebayo scored his first basket following his spike against Derrick White’s floater that sparked the fast break. Catching a feed from Gabe Vincent in the restricted area, #13 only had the 6-foot-1 Payton Pritchard in front. He converted an easy hook shot.

Aside from Strus’ early contributions and Adebayo’s second-quarter scoring, no one else was reliable. The Heat’s guards missed all 11 3-point attempts in the period. From the field, the hosts logged 32.7% efficiency and 33.3% from behind the arc while down eight points and getting gashed on an 11-0 run by Boston to close the quarter.

On the other side, in that stretch, Jayson Tatum mercilessly got into the lane, driving by and shooting over Tyler Herro for three baskets. At the top of the key, when Adebayo switched on to him, JT stopped on a dime for a step-back 3-pointer.

In the third quarter, Adebayo recorded five of his 12 field goals. He slashed into the paint for a driving hook, plus a layup, dunked once and hit a pair of pick-and-pop jumpers at the nail.

Victor Oladipo was the only other Heatle to make multiple buckets in this span. Picking up a miss from Tatum, Vic sped off on the break and hit a floater over Pritchard. Off a miss from Oladipo from deep, Lowry picked up the long rebound and hit him again for a shot from the corner. For the next one, Lowry turned past Vic’s screen on Tatum to attack Luke Kornet in drop coverage. The pick forced JT’s switch on Lowry, who found his man open on the left wing for a triple.

At the start of the fourth, the Heat was down nine, but it saved its best for last. Miami’s aggressive 2-3 zone held Boston to 13 points on 23.8% shooting by primarily making them operate from the outside.

Haywood Highsmith was the Heat’s difference maker off the bench. Coach Erik Spoelstra rolled with him, playing him all 12 minutes of the fourth. Caleb Martin was a nonfactor, having picked up five fouls in 11 minutes through three quarters.

When Adebayo dashed into the middle of the paint, he was met by three defenders. Highsmith intelligently saw the breakdown on the baseline, cut and finished under the hoop. Then, he hit a shot in each corner. On the first, he got open after the dribble handoff to Tyler Herro that Boston blitzed on. On his last, the Celtics ran a 1-2-2 zone. With R. Williams at the low post, he had too much ground to cover after Highsmith caught it 24 feet away from the cup.

In the final period, Adebayo logged nine points and eight rebounds. With the score tied at 95 with 23 seconds left, Adebayo caught the ball at the nail, faced up Pritchard, then raised for a jumper over him, plus G. Williams coming in as the help side shot blocker.

With Miami up two, Boston’s coach Joe Mazzulla didn’t call a timeout. Next, Tatum wasted 14 seconds before making up his mind to pass to the corner, but it was intercepted by Herro. The visitors immediately fouled with .9 seconds left. They committed another on Highsmith with .2 left. He made one out of two. Boston managed to get a shot off after its timeout, but it air-balled.

After the game, when Spo was asked about Bam potentially playing in the All-Star Game, he said, “Certainly, I am rooting for it. I thought he should have been an All-Star last year…”

On the team’s performance, Spo praised their coherency and confidence in understanding how Boston would attack late in the game.


Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Survive Against the Pelicans

For the first 21 minutes of Sunday’s competitive affair at Miami-Dade Arena, the Heat’s vain play from Friday night continued. As halftime approached, supporters grew anxious as NOLA’s lead ballooned to 16 points.  Then, Miami flipped like a light switch and found a pulse on offense.


In the first quarter, the Pelicans were ravaging the paint, converting easily without all five Heatles getting back on multiple possession changes, and beating the hosts in the half-court.  Jonas Valanciunas overpowered Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler in the post, then hit an elbow jumper when #13 sagged off him.


In transition, CJ McCollum used a pick on the left wing to slither to the nail for a jumper in front of Adebayo in drop coverage.  On a broken play with eight seconds left on the shot clock, CJ reset at the top of the key and blew by Victor Oladipo for an unchallenged make at the rim.  Orlando Robinson was the Heat’s closest big man, but he was jammed by Larry Nance Jr’s back screen.  


All three of Trey Murphy III’s first-half baskets came on fastbreaks.  As the Heat jogged back, he sprinted hard, running the right and left lanes.  


NOLA routinely doubled Butler in the mid-post, a strategy used successfully by the Mavericks on Friday.  Through 24 minutes, Butler had five points, none coming in the half-court.  Ball movement was not up to standards for the sixth straight quarter. And Miami’s marksmen, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, shot four blanks for the period.  


In the last few minutes of the half, Miami scratched its way back with a 10-0 run. Defensively, they strangled NOLA at the point of attack by intercepting a couple of passes, creating its fastbreak chances.  It all started with the charge Lowry drew on Nance in transition.  


Herro nailed a triple on the left wing on account of Robinson picking up #14’s first miss from the same spot.  Next, Lowry snatched Herb Jones’ errant pass from the right wing to the other for a break that finished with a soft Oladipo layin.  


Dribbling back into Miami territory, McCollum forced a switch against Herro, but Oladipo doubled.  Trying to pass out of the blitz to Jones, Butler deflected the rock, Oladipo recovered it and gave it right back to JB for the layup plus a free throw.


On the next play, Adebayo and Oladipo blitzed McCollum again on the wing.  Both defenders overwhelmed him, and #4 pulled the ball out of his grasp, then hit Herro with a hit-ahead pass he scored on. 


In the last 24 minutes, Miami secured the perimeter.  New Orleans converted four out of 16 attempts and committed 12 of its 24 turnovers.  The Heat also found a way to get to the line for 18 of its 27 tries, finishing the night with 22 made freebies.  


With three minutes left, the Pelicans were down two points.  Through nine minutes of the fourth quarter, the rivals were shooting 50% from the floor.  Subsequently, Lowry scored the following nine points for the Heat.  


The first bucket was a step-back triple on the right wing against Nance in drop coverage.  On the succeeding offensive possession, Jaxson Hayes bit on a fake at the post.  Lowry maneuvered around him for a banker off the glass.  For the third bucket, he took rookie Dyson Daniels off the dribble at the key for a two-foot shot.  His last basket was a pull-up jumper in front of Nance at the elbow.  


In a game that both squads combined for 45 turnovers, six Heatles recorded a steal, and they won the points off turnovers battle 15-10.  It’s incomparable to how Dallas smoked them in the same stat, 31-10.


At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra was humorful about the team’s 21st game decided by five points or fewer.  “Every night.  This is must-see, must-be TV and action live.”


On the topic of vintage Lowry looking for his spots, he praised his QB.  “That last three minutes, he read that intuitively.  Anytime we were trying to make a pass, they were making a deflection or a steal.  It was more get to an action and get a shot on goal.  He’ll felt that.  He understood that…”


It’s a shame no one asked him why Lowry hasn’t recognized those situations for most of the season. 


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Injury Bug isn’t all that’s biting the Miami Heat

On Wednesday, the Miami Heat had their best performance of the season. Forty-eight hours later, they were embarrassed by the Dallas Mavericks on national television.


That’s been the story of the 2022 Heat. Up and down. On and off. Hot and cold. If their season through 47 games were to be summed up using only one word, it’d be this: Volatile.


We can continue to pin this on health, but it’s way more significant than that. Something is broken. In reality, most of Miami’s wins during this ‘hot stretch’ have come against tanking teams or teams facing many injuries.


I know that hurts to hear, but it’s the truth. And in moments like this, truth is not the enemy. With 35 games remaining in the regular season and the trade deadline quickly approaching, it’s time to ditch the excuses.


So, where do we go from here? Well, before anything gets fixed, it must be addressed. I’m going to throw the ‘injuries’ excuse out with the trash and shine a light on a few issues the Heat must correct if they want to make another postseason run.


Three-Point Shooting (Or Lack thereof) 


Miami led the entire league in 3pt% last season (39.7%). A few games past the midway point, they are 26th (33.7%). This a problem. Especially considering Miami is among the slowest-paced teams in the league and relies heavily on their half-court efficiency.


It’s gotten so bad lately that Miami won’t even shoot them. Over the last two games, they’ve attempted only 28.4 threes – a number that would put them dead last in the league.


This was evident against Dallas on Friday, as Miami went into the half with two three-point makes compared to the Mavericks’ 11. Two. You can’t expect to win many games with a discrepancy like that. Fortunately for the Heat, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo were aggressive offensively and kept the game *somewhat* close. This trend continued in the second half and Miami wound up being outscored 4-18 from three-point land.


It appears that Miami knows this is its Achilles heel. So much so, that there were few times when guys simply passed up a good look. This has resulted in oversharing and, ultimately, poor-quality looks with the shot clock winding down.


Take this example from Oladipo. Miami is down by 16 points midway through the third (turd) quarter. Kyle Lowry pump fakes, collapses the defense, and kicks out to Oladipo on the perimeter. Rather than taking the three in rhythm, Oladipo pump fakes and settles for a contested 19-foot jump shot.×720.mp4


Situations like this must stop. If teams are going to double-team Jimmy Butler like the Mavericks did last night, guys have to be ready to shoot. It’s all fun and dandy to have talented mid-range assassins on your team in Bam Adebayo, Herro, and Oladipo, but when teams are taking double the amount of threes and making four times as much, you have a problem.


What is a Kyle Lowry?


Are you ready for Lowry’s numbers over his last 8 games?


6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 35/20/75 shooting splits.


$30 million.


I’m not even going to mention any hypothetical trades or suggest that Gabe Vincent should start ahead of him. Put simply, the Heat have to get him going.


It’s clear that his impact has been diminished with Butler, Herro, and Adebayo handling the ball a bit more, but Lowry has also been a potato off the ball. If he’s not going to shoot, as evidenced by his eight total FG attempts over the last two games, it completely neutralizes Miami’s offense.


I will give Lowry his flowers for pushing the tempo and getting the Heat out and running after misses, makes, and turnovers. That was evident in his return against the Pelicans on Wednesday. But the role he is needed for at this point in his career requires him to be a threat offensively. If he won’t (can’t) do that, then I propose this question:


What do the Heat have to lose by starting Vincent?


Max Strus Needs To Get Loose


It’s been a long time since we’ve heard the catchphrase, “the Strus is loose”. Max is shooting less than 32% from long range over his last 10 games and a hair over 33% for the season. As Miami’s only true “sniper”, this can’t happen.


His lack of efficiency is even more troubling when you consider that he’s often being hunted on the defensive side of the ball. Pull up the tape from Friday’s loss to the Mavericks. Luka Doncic was going at him early and often and each time resulted in either a made basket or a foul.

You could say it’s up to Erik Spoelstra to get him going, but it simply comes down to Strus hitting shots. According to Synergy, Strus knocked down 47% of his unguarded catch-and-shoot threes last season.


That number has fallen to 42% this year.


For the crowd that says teams have scouted him and that’s led to his decreased efficiency – Strus has been left unguarded 1% less this season according to Synergy. A small decrease, but it goes to show nothing drastic has taken place from other teams.


It’s quite simple: Strus has to be more efficient from downtown.


Have Some Guts


Remember Game 5 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals? Heat vs. Sixers. Series tied 2-2.


Miami had just lost two straight after going up 2-0 and Philadelphia had all the momentum. Things looked bleak. Miami’s back was against the wall. How did they respond?


Miami won by 35 points.


How about a round later in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics? Facing elimination in Game 6, Butler drops 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and four steals to force a Game 7.


I bring that up because this organization thrives in these types of settings. At present day, it’s been an up-and-down roller coaster of a season. It’s tough to be optimistic about this team as currently constructed. I get that.


But one trade deadline and a few spots of positive regression later and this team are more than capable of rolling into the playoffs with home-court advantage. And we already know how teams feel about playing the Heat in the postseason.


In the words of fellow Five Reasons contributor Greg Sylvander, “Have some guts!”

We’re within striking distance and Pat Riley knows that.


Besides, winning feels so much better with a little adversity.


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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Mavericks Annihilate Heat

For the second time in a week, the Miami Heat came up winless on primetime TV. First in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then on Friday, in Dallas for a second-half buzzsaw as brutal as JFK’s ride through the city. The team’s tape review will assuredly be as horrifying as the Zapruder Film.

Miami only logged three assists and six field goals in the first quarter. The Mavs’ length in man-to-man coverage, plus double-teaming Jimmy Butler in the half-court, froze the Heat’s offense. Bam Adebayo, uncharacteristically, laid five close-range duds in the period and didn’t record his first basket until a minute into the second quarter, his sixth attempt. The two positive team signs that followed were that Miami found chances at the line and Victor Oladipo never went cold.

The Heatles managed to slow the game down with its 27 charity stripe shots, but that didn’t stop the wild horses. When Miami deployed drop coverage against Luka Dončić in pick and roll, Adebayo was the low man unable to contain his drive to the cup. Again in PNR, this time against Caleb Martin playing tight, Dončić dribbled left towards the wing, stepped back and canned a triple.

The end of the first quarter was an omen. With three seconds left, Luka caught the ball at midcourt off a sideline inbound, assisted by Dwight Powell’s screen on Adebayo. Martin reached and missed on the steal, leaving Dončić dribbling towards the right wing. From 37 feet away, he splashed over Max Strus’ late contest.

Through 12 minutes, Miami was down by 14 points. They managed to cut the deficit to nine at the intermission, led by Oladipo’s four out of four made shots and Adebayo and Tyler Herro remembering how to score.

Vic isolated Powell for a running hook with no help, blew by Reggie Bullock for a layup, hit two shots after curling into the lane aided by a screen and buried a transition triple. Bam hit a couple of layups in transition with one tap-in off Herro’s miss from the left wing. Like an elite offensive lineman, #13 provided the openings for his man, Herro, to creep into the paint on two of his baskets. Tyler’s other two field goals came zipping past Tim Hardaway Jr. for a pull-up and a turnaround hook in the low post.

Of course, what followed was the turd quarter. This festering issue came back like the unwelcome yearly tax bill. In this frame, the Heatles were beat on the glass by six and misfired on 13 out of 19 shots and three of its six free throws.

Kyle Lowry’s first-quarter spark didn’t have an encore. He recorded a couple of transition baskets and then made one free throw through 12 minutes in quarters two and three. He didn’t take a shot in his eight minutes of second-half action.

Errors were also made on the other side. Even on a SLOB pass, a late switch on Dončić, the inbounder, left Spencer Dinwiddie open on the right wing for a triple. Defending PNR, Miami blitzed Luka with Oladipo and Martin up top on the right. It was no thang. Dončić passed over both of them, finding the roll man, Powell, in the middle for a bank shot.

Unfortunately for the visitors, there was no mercy rule after 36 minutes. Courtesy of the Mavericks’ 25-point lead, Butler and Lowry rested during the final period. The most alarming stat of the evening was Miami was wiped out in points off turnovers, 31-10, in favor of Dallas.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame the night was wasted. “We were never able to have that competitive disposition that we’ve had virtually all season long…”

Politely, Spo told everyone his team gave up.


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Bam Adebayo’s Aggression is the Key That Unlocks Miami’s Offense

Through 45 games, the Miami Heat are settling in as an average team. At least that’s what the numbers indicate. The rotation has resembled a game of musical chairs more often than not, but the numbers are the numbers. They are 24th in points per 100 possessions, 26th in eFG%, and thanks to a top-4 defense, they are outscoring opposing teams by less than one point (0.4) per 100 possessions. So, yeah. Average.


There is one trend, however, that has permeated through the shaky offense: Bam Adebayo’s offensive aggressiveness.


It was clear early on that Bam’s calling card is defense. There are few players in the league more versatile that can guard 1-5 more effectively than Bam. Keyword – effectively. But offense? That was a different story.


Early on in his career, Bam was used more as a P&R lob toy for the likes of an aging Dwyane Wade or Tyler Johnson. (Bet you didn’t think you’d read Tyler Johnson’s name in a Heat article again).


Over the last couple of years, however, we’ve seen Bam’s offensive game blossom. Not just in stats and numbers but in his confidence.


A few short seasons ago the majority of his offense came from inside the paint. Per Cleaning The Glass, 67% of his field goal attempts came at the rim across his first three seasons. Teams recognized this and quickly started playing drop on Miami’s P&Rs. Opposing defenses were daring him to step up and take mid-range jumpers. Because Bam wasn’t comfortable, he would hesitate at times and it would neutralize Miami’s offensive possession.


Remember the 2021 playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks? Sure, there was a slew of reasons why the Heat was swept, but one major takeaway was the Bucks’ ability to exploit Bam’s lack of confidence and aggression in the mid-range. As you can see in the examples below, they planted Brook Lopez in the paint and dared Bam to step up and beat them.


The result? Miami shot 39% from the field as a team and averaged a measly 98 PPG.


Offense = Neutralized.×720.mp4


Brook Lopez is among the best centers when it comes to playing drop. More on that in a second.×720.mp4


Since that series, Bam’s aggression is night and day. He’s stepping into pull-up jumpers with confidence and sinking them with career-high efficiency. As a result, Miami’s offense becomes potent. According to the data, 58% of Bam’s shots are coming from the mid-range this season. That puts him in the 99th percentile among other bigs. As for efficiency, he’s knocking down 46% of them. That’s a career-high and better than Kristaps Porzingis (45%) and Jayson Tatum (41%) this season.


Remember when Lopez and the Bucks’ drop defense exposed Bam in the 2021 playoffs? Well, he had a chance to redeem himself earlier this month when the two teams met. While this was just a normal January matchup to some, I viewed it as an opportunity to gauge just how far Bam has come offensively. With a healthy Lopez starting and plenty of drop in store, how would Bam respond?


He obliterated it right from the jump. It was clear the Heat made it a point to get him the ball early on offense. Rather than hesitating, he went right at Lopez.


These three possessions early on in the game are a great indicator of what an aggressive Bam does for Miami’s offense.×720.mp4


Anytime the Bucks showed drop, Bam took advantage.×720.mp4


After that make, it was clear that the Bucks’ coaches instructed Lopez to play closer to Bam on the P&R, rather than giving up an easy jumper.

See it here:


Two possessions later, Lopez sticks closer to Bam on the screen and it opens up a driving lane for Jimmy Butler. He cashes it in for two.


Put simply, an aggressive Bam opens up Miami’s offense. A passive Bam clogs it up.


As we saw above, when he was aggressive early on and attacked the defense, it opened up driving lanes for his teammates, namely Butler.


It’s no secret by now that Bam’s aggression is the key that unlocks Miami’s offense. The Heat is enjoying their best stretch of basketball this season, and Bam is averaging 23.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 17.6 field goal attempts over his last 10 games. Coincidence? I think not.


Despite the average offensive numbers for the season, if the Heat can remain healthy and  THIS Bam shows up for the playoffs – watch out.

Gabe Vincent starting over Kyle Lowry is the Spark Miami Needs

The Miami Heat is currently enjoying its best (and healthiest) stretch of basketball this season. They’ve won 12 of their last 18 games and appear poised to make up lost ground over the remaining 37 games. In the midst of finding a rhythm, a scintillating two-game stretch from Gabe Vincent has ignited an interesting debate among Heat fans:


Should Vincent continue to start at point guard, even when Kyle Lowry returns to the lineup?


Before setting the stage, we have to get one thing clear: shame on Lowry. The sole fact that this is even up for debate is an indictment on his tenure in Miami. Sure, there have been some good moments. But ultimately his impact has not lived up to the near $30 million yearly price tag it took to acquire him. Because of that, two-impressive games from Vincent against the Milwaukee Bucks’ JV team was all it took for fans to begin beating the drum. Let it be known that this discussion has much more to do with Lowry than it does with Vincent. Let’s proceed.


At face value, the Heat are an average team offensively. At least that’s what the numbers indicate. They are outscoring opponents by less than a point per 100 possessions (0.4) and it has them sitting in the 52nd percentile as a result.


With Lowry on the floor, the numbers get worse.


Across the 1,257 minutes he’s played this season, Miami is a -2.4 per 100 possessions. That’s a pretty big sample size. As for Vincent, the numbers tell an entirely different story. The Heat is a +2.8 per 100 possessions in his 782 minutes on the floor this season.


In nearly every advanced stat, Miami is a negative with Lowry and a positive with Vincent – both offensively and defensively.


That said, it would be naive to derive an opinion from solely looking at just one source of individual advanced stat. After all, injuries have forced Miami to trot out a plethora of different lineup combinations and taking a closer look could paint a better picture.


The Heat’s most-used lineup this season has been that of Lowry – Tyler Herro – Caleb Martin – Jimmy Butler – Bam Adebayo. This group has seen a total of 405 possessions together and has been solid in every way. They are outscoring teams by more than nine points per 100 possessions and forcing turnovers on 18.4% of opponents possessions. That’s like, really good. (It’s also an indicator on where Miami would be if they could just stay healthy).


Things get even more interesting if you substitute Vincent for Lowry with the rest of the group staying the same. Are you ready for these numbers? In Vincent’s 68 total possessions with the rest of Miami’s starters, the Heat are outscoring opponents by 23.5 points per 100 possessions and humming with a 61.1 eFG%. I know, it’s a very small sample size, but we’re here to have some fun, right?


It’s plain as day. Vincent has been more valuable to the Heat this season during his time on the floor per the numbers. Overreacting to a few good games and making drastic changes isn’t wise. But with Lowry continuing to operate on career-low efficiency and Miami flirting with play-in territory, they are running out of time to figure it out.


Vincent has the hot hand. His offensive spark is exactly what the Heat need to jumpstart their climb back to being one of the many juggernauts of the East.


 And if one thing is true it’s this: Erik Spoelstra isn’t afraid to ride the hot hand. Just ask Duncan Robinson.

The Miami Dolphins are still in the huddle as the clock ticks down on fourth-and-1.

Pressure Point: Dolphins give Bills a scare, but leave fans frustrated

This is why they have playoffs, because there are no certainties in the NFL.

Not for the Los Angeles Chargers with a 27-0 lead, only to get swamped by an epic Jacksonville Jaguars comeback in a stunning 31-30 loss on Saturday.

For a while Sunday it looked like another Florida team might flip an improbable script with the Miami Dolphins turning a 17-0 deficit into a 24-20 lead, on the road with a third-string rookie quarterback against the highly favored Bills in their AFC wild-card game.

Ultimately, there was no Miami Miracle in Buffalo as what could have been the Dolphins’ greatest postseason comeback victory fell short 34-31.

While the effort and the scare they put into a bonafide Super Bowl contender was commendable, the ending was wrenching in a way that is characteristic of a franchise that never fails to string along its fans and leave them in agony.

This one will be remembered for the Dolphins’ final hopes fizzling after a delay-of-game penalty on fourth-and-short in the final two-and-a-half minutes.

Confusion on fourth-and-1

For all the good first-year coach Mike McDaniel did in getting the team to the playoffs for the first time in six years and within a whisker of upsetting a 14-point favorite, he will have to endure an offseason of bitter taste from questionable game management in the fourth quarter.

McDaniel repeatedly had trouble getting plays in to quarterback Skylar Thompson and the proper personnel package on the field in timely fashion. They had already burned all of their timeouts because of that issue.

This time there was no way to avoid the penalty. They were still in the huddle with five seconds left on the play clock.

So they went from needing less than a yard to fourth and a long five with 2:29 remaining.

On what would be Miami’s final offensive play, Thompson either didn’t see Tyreek Hill streaking open across the middle or the rush was on him too quick to make that throw. So Thompson looked to the right and was unable to connect with Mike Gesicki on a short pass. And that was that.

McDaniel said afterward that there was confusion with the officials on whether Salvon Ahmed had actually gotten the first down on the previous play.

“We thought we got the first down, so we were deploying some players for the first-and-10. And then it was articulated that it was fourth down,” McDaniel said in his postgame media session.

That was definitely a time when one of those previously squandered timeouts would have come in handy.

Whatever the reason, it made for an excruciating ending as the wind rushed out of the Dolphins’ season with a massive Pffft!

Efficiency in getting plays in and off is certainly an area for improvement as the Dolphins have often pushed the play clock to the final seconds this season. It became more of an issue Sunday with a rookie quarterback contending with a loud, hostile crowd.

Dolphins 0-for-4 since last playoff win

Bottom line, the Dolphins were one-and-done in the playoffs for the fourth time since they last won in the postseason 22 years ago.

They gave a much better accounting of themselves than in the previous three which were all routs by a combined score of 77-24.

It appeared like it would more of the same with Josh Allen and the Bills leading 17-0 early in the second quarter.

Turnovers had a lot to do with the arc of this game and everything to do with the Dolphins making a contest of it. Miami cashed in 18 points off three turnovers.
Allen came in with 14 touchdown passes and only one interception in his playoff career.

The Dolphins picked him off twice in the second quarter and forced him into a fumble that defensive lineman Zach Sieler scooped up for a go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter.

The Bills regained the lead after converting a Thompson interception into a short touchdown drive.

But Thompson led an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to bring Miami within three points with 10:53 remaining.

Thompson ended up completing 18 of 45 for 220 yards and one touchdown, with two interceptions and a passer rating of 44.7.

Would Tua Tagovailoa have changed wild-card outcome?

The rookie was often off target and slow getting passes off. But he didn’t get great help from his receivers, who had several notable drops.

Jaylen Waddle, in particular, looked like he was trying to catch a pot roast slipping off a greased platter with oven mitts until finally coming through with three catches in the fourth quarter.

Damar Hamlin, the Bills safety who needed to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati two weeks ago, watched on TV and tweeted following the game: “I have to give a huge shout out to the Dolphins. Made it a game. I’m so looking forward to more Bills Dolphins in the foreseeable future.”

Yes, the Dolphins bucked steep odds and made it closer than most of their fans may have hoped for. But the way it turned out left them feeling frustrated with the many mistakes, angry about the disorganization in game management and lamenting how the outcome could have been different with starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a healthy participant.

Unfortunately, health and availability has been elusive with Tagovailoa. Recurring concussions have put his long-term viability in question — the most recent head injury kept him out of the final two games of the regular season and the playoff.

Adam Schefter, of ESPN, reported Sunday that Tagovailoa “is expected to return as the Dolphins starting quarterback next season” and that he might have been cleared from concussion protocol had the Dolphins advanced in the postseason.

According to Schefter: “Medical professionals also are confident that Tagovailoa should be able to resume his NFL career next season, if not sooner, sources said.”

Like the outcome of Sunday’s game, that is just another uncertainty in the Miami Dolphins’ unending seasons of elusive hope.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Gabe Vincent Shines in Kyle Lowry’s Absence

The Heatles went 2-0 in the miniseries against the Fawns between Thursday and Saturday in Miami. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat because of knee soreness, a gift for the hosts that assisted in padding its league record. Now, for the first time this season, the Heat are four games above .500.

Miami’s 2-3 zone followed up its masterful work securing the interior and influencing the Bucks to almost exclusively play from the outside. Over both games, Milwaukee logged a meager 44 points in the paint. Yet, on Saturday, the Bucks got five more attempts in the square (25) than it had previously. Although, Miami held them to 24.4 percentage points below the league average in the restricted area (40%).

More evidence that the zone neutered the Bucks: Bobby Portis, who converts 69% of tries at the rim and half from 3-10 feet, for the season, missed two in the restricted area and shot 33% in the rest of the lane, plus Brook Lopez attempted just one shot in the box.Typically, half of Lopez’s looks come from the paint.

Miami started the first half sizzling from deep, primarily behind the marksmanship of Kyle Lowry’s understudy, Gabe Vincent, who made five out of seven 3-pointers for the period. While he took spot-up shots and splashed trays off the dribble, he was as radiant as the Wolf-Rayet star.

Vincent’s first two-pointer didn’t come until early in the second quarter. A failed pick by Orlando Robinson minimally freed Gabe from AJ Green in the right corner. Green went over the screen, taking away the driving lane, but Vincent pulled up for a long contested two that swished.

Next, as #2 dribbled in transition, Bam Adebayo screened Grayson Allen at the top of the key. Vincent used the opening to get to the nail for his second jumper, unbothered.

For his third midrange shot of the half, Adebayo, again, shielded his defender in the halfcourt at the top. Vincent stepped into the lane, attacked Portis in drop coverage, and hit a floater covered by the low man and his initial matchup, Allen.

At the intermission, Vincent had 21 points. His efficiency from the field continued in the last 24 minutes but on a smaller volume of three out of four made buckets with an assist, a rebound and a pair of steals. He finished the game with 27 points, two shy of the career high he set on Thursday.

At the postgame press conference, Vincent said, “I think I was just in a rhythm, and my guys did a really good job of getting me open time and time again. Whether that’s shutting the screen or cutting, or finding me when I’m open in the corner… They did a good job of that, and I made some shots. That always helps.”

These back-to-back games for Vincent scoring at least 20 points have only happened four times in his career. The first time was in 2021, between Jan. 12-14. The second was later that year, from Dec. 15-17. The third was in 2022, on Feb. 28 and March 2. His latest was Thursday and Saturday. For whatever it’s worth, the starting point guard for this team, Lowry, has only done that three times in a Heat uniform through one and a half seasons.

The production at the one spot has been so unreliable this year for the Heatles that Vincent’s last week of play should instantly spark a controversy over who gets the shine and who becomes the squire. This is not an overreaction to facing a two-time MVP-less squad. The last time Lowry recorded at least 20 points in a game was on Dec. 23, and he’s done it in six of his 36 nights of action. Keep in mind there are currently 42 players qualifying for league leaders who are averaging at least 20 a night.

For the record, holding that average for a starting point guard is unnecessary. But shooting above 40% for the season is. This puts Miami in an awkward spot because both Lowry and Vincent are below that.

Age has diminished Lowry’s ability. If Vincent doesn’t take his spot he should eat a large chunk of the veteran’s minutes.