The Heat faced the Pacers just hours before the deadline on Wednesday night, as Bam Adebayo shines yet again.
He’s had big time offensive nights, but when it comes to that knockdown jumper: this is at the top.
Some takeaways from this one….
#1: The Heat come out with a hot offensive first quarter.
With not much focus on an actual basketball game being played tonight, the Heat came out with a surprising amount of energy. The offense was moving extremely well, as they were hitting shots from the outside and finding back-door cutters often. That interior play led to 9 first quarter free throw attempts. Gabe Vincent was the story of that early quarter, as he walked into an immediate 11 points, which is some awkward timing. The trade deadline hours away, and Kyle Lowry on the top of everybody’s mind, he found his offensive comfort in a heavy off-ball role. Spot-up threes and some PnR play got him going. That got the Heat up to 39 points in that opening quarter, but inconsistency struck again.
#2: Bam Adebayo’s high isos and elbow jumpers…
Bam Adebayo’s game has become simple on the offensive end. Not in terms of role, but in terms of approach. To finish the first quarter, he dribbles down the open floor with an expiring clock, and flows into a deep fade-away jumper at the buzzer doesn’t even hit rim. Shortly after to begin the second quarter, limited time left on the shot clock, he fades at the same spot for the same shot. Bucket. Those rhythm shots turned into a full-out elbow jumper display off every pocket pass and isolation. He was getting to the line as well, but it wasn’t in a Jimmy Butler grind it out style. The jumper was dictating. The pump-fake just kept finding buyers. He finished with 20 points in the first half alone. His scoring levels have become extremely fluid, and they fit the playoff style so well.
#3: Noting some issues, plus the TJ McConnell game.
We often talk about random scrub Heat killers, but TJ McConnell always seems to find his game against the Heat in recent years. He knows the primary spot he can score from, Miami knows the primary spot he can score from. But sometimes that’s just a shot you’ll live with in context of the offense. That was the case in the first half, where he ran off 16 early points in that short mid-range area. As much as I talked about the Heat’s early flow, they still trailed by 3 at half. Even more importantly, they gave up 63 points to this Pacers team in 24 minutes. In big picture, no matter what the roster looks like, the Heat will figure out how to operate within top ranked defenses. But this just sums up the inconsistencies way too often. Shooting variants, coverage variants. That’s what makes playoff projections tough at times due to the wide range of the unknown of who you are getting exactly.
#4: Jimmy Butler willing his way to buckets.
As much as I discussed Bam utilizing his strengths, Jimmy Butler was doing the same heading into the third quarter. Let me start by saying the Pacers are a team that defends Butler much differently than any other team in league. The match-up that Butler usually searches for, already sits there on a platter as their small guard Andrew Nembhard is his match-up each game they’ve played. It’s not a total disadvantage since they constantly shade help, but it shifts Butler’s original approach. In that third quarter, we saw him just willing his way to the basket. Embracing contact, fading for and-1’s in mid-air. Playing off misses and dump-offs around the rim. He was in his element, and most of all, he was playing with a certain level of intensity. Butler and Bam finding their way…just hours before the deadline.
#5: Hours away from the cut-off.
On a night that the Heat played a game against the Pacers, with their two top dogs in Butler and Bam leading the way, it didn’t even feel like a game night. All of the focus seems to be on that 3 o’clock deadline tomorrow afternoon, as they search for any type of improvement. We’ve talked enough names, but I just want to discuss it in the context of this game. Watching Bam Adebayo not hit rim on any jumper. Seeing Jimmy Butler score whenever he chooses it’s necessary. Get them the help they most definitely deserve. We often headline this point with Butler’s window, but what about Bam’s surge? He’s playing at an incredible level right now, and that shouldn’t be wasted either. Let’s just see how this plays out, hours away from the cut-off.