So, that was some game…
The Miami Heat steal one in Boston in game 3, simply led by that excellence of Bam Adebayo throughout on both ends. No Jimmy Butler in the second half, Kyle Lowry coming off injury, and pure role player dominance.
So much happened, but here were some things that stood out…
#1: Bam Adebayo responds to the noise with an early masterclass.
Heading into this game, all eyes were on Bam Adebayo. The basketball public were looking at him to step up if this Heat team wanted to progress forward in this series, and well, he responded big. Erik Spoelstra and Bam Adebayo had to come in with an early approach to get him going, since he simply is a rhythm player. We began seeing Miami run sets for him above the break, allowing him to blend his two offensive threats together: turning a face-up into a post-up. That led him into low post play with some nice hook shots, comfort around them rim, and speedy pull up fades. But that last point is the key element: speedy. When he’s decisive and instinctive as a scoring threat, things look much different. That quick pull changes the game for his offensive slate, and forces defensive adjustments.
#2: Erik Spoelstra’s substitution adjustments carrying some weight.
Erik Spoelstra threw some haymakers early in this game from a coaching perspective, and it deserves some love. Aside from some schematic adjustments that were noticed throughout, the substitution changes were major. Usually the pattern is for Herro and Dedmon to enter at the 6 minute mark, consequently meaning that Bam exits. But today, only Dedmon found himself at the scorer’s table at that 6 minute mark. Why was that? Well, as I’ve been saying since the end of game 2, Bam and Herro need to play together much more than they have. So, Herro entered at the 3 minute mark instead, while Bam re-entered for Dedmon. He did just commit a quick 2 fouls, but something was found there. A couple high PnR reps later, Adebayo continues to dominate as a roller in space. Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin also got spot minutes while Victor Oladipo was squeezed. Well, for a half. After Butler wouldn’t return coming back from half, Dipo was inserted into his spot as a starter. That’s the name of the game for this team though.
#3: Kyle Lowry’s insertion was felt early.
When Kyle Lowry was announced early in the day “intending to play,” it felt like there were some mixed emotions there. Yes the team’s starting lineup is returning, but is he fully healthy? We saw what happened when he tried to return in game 3 against Philly, so how different will this look? And well, his presence was felt immediately. For one, the difference in pace was staggering. A Jimmy Butler and-1 early in the game took place 2 and a half seconds into the shot clock due to a Lowry touchdown pass. And plus, this ties back to the Bam discussion. He was setting him up in his spots to trigger those offensive sets, and that’s the difference a true point guard makes for a team. Yet if you’ve been watching sports talk on TV, the game 2 loss of Derrick White was much more crucial. As the game unfolded, you could see that hamstring having more and more of a pull. The jumper was shorter, the passes were lazier, but they still needed his calming hand late. And a final steal down the stretch iced it fully.
#4: Third quarter: Butler goes down, Boston makes a run, role players turn up the clamps.
As I mentioned before, Jimmy Butler went down to start the second half, meaning Victor Oladipo had his number called all of a sudden. Offense got stagnant for a bit and the Celtics began building their run, which was pretty much expected. Yet, one thing, that might be overlooked, saved in that span. Role player defensive dominance. I must start with Oladipo, who wasn’t heavily involved in the offensive flow, yet was overpowering perimeter options for the Celtics on defense. Not just on the ball, but he was all over the place on rotations. PJ Tucker owned that quarter as well, pretty much aligned with those same descriptions, except his dominance came through physicality. Fighting through screens, overplaying Tatum, and making his life difficult. Even Caleb Martin entered late and got a much needed steal to finish the quarter. This was a gritty one, and that started with the guys mentioned who put it all out there.
#5: What a finish.
Jaylen Brown hits a 3 to cut it to one, looking like Miami has finally hit that wall. They kept that lead for so long, but the car has finally stalled. But then, the next possession pretty much saved them. Flare screen for Max Strus, he squares up, and fires away. Bucket. The lead back up to 4 all of a sudden, from a guy who clearly isn’t afraid of the moment. A bit later after a timeout, Lowry brings the ball down. Strus forces something in the corner, and Bam finds himself with the ball with 5 seconds on the shot clock. Pump-fake, jumps into Horford, and still hits the deep jumper. The Heat have finally taken some control back, but now they need a stop. Heat swarm, the ball floats to the weak-side corner, and Lowry dives on the floor to retain it. This game was one of a ton of heart, on both sides, but the will Miami showed late was outstanding. And it was led by their franchise player: Bam Adebayo.
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