After a dramatic finish in Miami against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon, all eyes are on Bam Adebayo’s finishing touch to put the game away at the buzzer. Now, although that shot was an incredible boost for this team after the recent losing streak, it’s mostly about the boost in confidence it can give Adebayo. And just plainly, he deserved that moment.
But instead of just focusing on that one shot, let’s take a ride through Miami’s execution under 4 minutes to go, since that final stretch really showed a lot of things about this team’s character in a game without Jimmy Butler.
– Trevor Ariza doing the small things
On this possession, Goran Dragic brings the ball down as Duncan Robinson runs over and slips the screen to allow him to flow into a PnR on the opposite side. They forced a switch as Bruce Brown went under to guard Adebayo, giving Dragic just enough room to pull.
Although it clanked off the rim, go back and watch Trevor Ariza on this play. When he sees Dragic get into shooting motion, he slowly crashes toward the basket. Most players would immediately bolt there when trying to get an offensive rebound, but Ariza slowly times it.
Knowing Adebayo was waiting under the rim with nobody his size next to him, Ariza taps it over to him, leading to an and-1, which was a very important spark for their offense. As much as people are pointing toward Ariza’s defense on small guards or outstanding shooting stretch, the small things that he does is the real reason for his effectiveness.
– Dragic generating offense down the stretch
One of Miami’s go to sets down the stretch of games with Goran Dragic as a ball-handler looks just like this, except it’s usually Jimmy Butler as the screener. Dragic/Butler PnR’s have been a huge bright spot in Miami’s late game offense, since they have everyone clear out, and allow Butler to catch the ball in stride on the roll where he’s at his best.
But with no Butler, they decided to do something similar yesterday, as Adebayo was the one on the roll. This is a much easier pass for Dragic to make, since they clear out the lane, meaning the only option here is to throw the lob pass.
Although there have been some down moments from Dragic recently, he’s still one of their most trusted decision makers, since his general basketball IQ makes up for that slight lack of quickness. And that was shown yesterday when the 34 year old veteran was the one making plays at the guard spot, instead of their evolving young back-court.
– Bam Adebayo predicting the offenses next move
One area of growth in Adebayo’s game has been his defensive IQ, since he’s reading offenses much quicker. Although different switches are harped on at times, that’s a scheme thing that he is asked to do, and most nights is effective when relying on backside rotations.
On this play, Bruce Brown sets the screen for Kyrie Irving, and Adebayo immediately reacts to cut him off on the roll. Another element to this is Adebayo’s comfort level when Iguodala is on the backside, since when he noticed him on that side, he knew he could roam a bit. This also shows some of Duncan Robinson’s defensive abilities from a team perspective, since he does a good job filling in the empty spots on the rotations.
This leads to a stop, but also take a look at what happens next. Something else that stuck out here is Miami’s offense looking their best when they immediately flow into their sets. It led to a foul call, but it would’ve led to an early shot either way, which shows some of the growth in their late game execution.
– Defensive IQ to offensive grit
There’s a lot to unpack here on this play, and it was by far the most impressive stretch of the game. Much like in the last clip, Ariza and Robinson blitz Irving at the top of the key, while Adebayo slides over for the cut-off. Robinson does a good job of filling in once again, as Adebayo absolutely blankets Landry Shamet, forcing a contested Jeff Green jumper.
Now, on the offensive side of the ball, Miami works the ball into Adebayo halfway through the shot-clock as he’s being fronted by Brown once again. Irving comes over for the double as he catches it, meaning he has somebody open on the opposite side. Dragic’s cut to the basket is the most underrated part of this possession, since that eliminates Green from being able to recover on a kick-out.
Ariza missed the open three, but after Adebayo and Dragic fight for the board down low, Dragic ends up with it and kicks it out to Ariza again. Except this time, he blows by Green and takes the contact to convert on a tough layup to cut the lead to two. Once again, he does the small things, but obviously this time it wasn’t so small. When re-watching this fourth quarter, I was really surprised how active he was on every single play, ultimately becoming a major reason that Miami came out with a win.
– The positive Adebayo switches
There’s a chance the title of this article could be called the Adebayo and Ariza show, since that’s basically what it came down to on most possessions. A major reason the Ariza pick-up was so crucial for Miami to plug into the starting four spot, was for plays like this, where Adebayo is able to switch without worrying about a fellow big struggling with the switch.
As I’ve repeated over and over, Ariza defends guards as good as anybody, meaning late game situations when he’s guarding Irving, leads to the ball-handler searching for a switch that doesn’t get much easier. Adebayo gets put on an island with him, and does what he does best, make shooters uncomfortable.
Irving’s signature behind the back dribble eliminates most players from the play immediately, but not Adebayo. He recovers rather effortlessly, as it clanks off the rim, giving Miami another opportunity. Oh and by the way, Irving was 0 for 8 from the field yesterday when Adebayo was defending him.
– Iguodala clamps to a downhill Dragic
The best intro to this possession would just be listening to what Mark Jones says to begin the play. “Iguodala this time on Irving, last time it was Ariza.” Since that right there is what makes this Heat team so interesting, due to the fact that they can throw a bunch of versatile and veteran wings on star players.
Iguodala doesn’t budge one bit when sticking with Irving, which may have a bit to do with him guarding him time and time again in past Finals match-ups. He finally falls for the ball-fake in the corner, but well, somehow stays with it to alter Irving’s shot again.
As Dragic grabs the ball off the rim, it’s pretty clear that there wasn’t any additional thoughts about what he was going to do on this play. It doesn’t matter if it’s Dragic in his rookie season or his 13th season, he’s still pretty close to unstoppable when he gets that type of momentum on a fast-break. He converts on the layup to tie this thing up for Miami.
– The shot
And finally, the play that doesn’t stop popping up on every social media platform you click on, and rightfully so. Before diving into that play, let’s rewind a few seconds prior, since honestly, that part is the most impressive.
One more time of Ariza guarding Irving, leading right into a swarming switch, and I don’t think there’s a better way to contest that jumper from Irving. That’s a shot he’s knocked down plenty of times in his career, and Adebayo especially does a good job of not fouling and giving Miami a final opportunity.
Then, the ball finds Adebayo’s hands with 11 seconds on the clock. If you take a close look, he looks over at the sideline by Erik Spoelstra, since he wanted to make sure that they weren’t going to call a timeout. Dragic sets a screen for Robinson, as he clears to the corner to eliminate any help from the weak-side.
As Dragic pops out to the perimeter, Adebayo motions his hand to basically say: I got this. And well, he did have it. He sizes up Green, takes three dribble to his left, and leans back into a smooth jumper that rolls in the basket as time expires.
That ladies and gentleman, is Adebayo’s first time in that type of situation, and I can comfortably say that it will most definitely not be his last.