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A Breakdown of Bam Adebayo’s Outstanding Defense on LeBron James

On a night that LeBron James was held to 19 points without Anthony Davis, it seems necessary to dive right into the defensive source, Bam Adebayo.

Now, Andre Iguodala had that match-up for a good portion of the game, and did a tremendous job out on the perimeter, which should not be overlooked. But when a team’s big man is guarding one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball for a bunch of stretches, it must be noted.

So, here’s a look into Adebayo’s defensive performance against an old friend of the Miami Heat.

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– Fronting James early

Before we look into this match-up a little bit deeper, let’s start with the first possession, which was a sign that this was going to be a battle all night.

Adebayo showed that he wasn’t afraid to play a little physical out on the perimeter with LeBron, fronting him in the post, denying the entry pass. This led to a chucked up three point attempt from Kyle Kuzma, missing badly and getting Miami right into their offense.

These are the type of plays that aren’t shown in a stat sheet. Plays that force others to make a mistake, or force others to become uncomfortable. And well, that’s the Adebayo effect. No matter the defensive personnel around him, he’s going to bother a team with his physical abilities, his quickness and length, as well as his intense motor.

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– Mind games

LeBron is one of the most gifted players when manipulating a defense with his mind, due to his many unique abilities in his arsenal.

On this possession, LeBron gets Adebayo on an absolute island. Wide open baseline, wide open wing. Usually when LeBron is given that much space, he takes it at the chest of his defender due to his physical dominance. But that changed when he realized he had a very different player lined up across from him.

He scanned Adebayo, figuring out his next move, took one dribble and passed it out to the perimeter as the ball rolled down the court out of bounds. LeBron is the king of mind games, but a player with as much activity as Adebayo brings on that end of the floor, he ended up on the other side of things for a change.

– Forcing more uncomfort late in possessions 

It’s not an easy task to guard the best player in the NBA individually, but it’s even tougher when you must worry about the backside the entire game being the defensive staple that he is for Miami.

This is another example of LeBron passing up shots that he would usually take. As Adebayo tries to avoid putting his back to all of the action, he tries to slide over as much as possible with the dribble penetration. The ball ends up swinging back around to LeBron with the shot-clock ticking down, he passes out to Montrezl Harrell for a corner three with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.

Adebayo clearly knew the clock situation as well, since he allowed his hands to be much more active than his feet, leading to another impressive stop.

– Avoiding soft switches

Soft switches has been Miami’s downfall on the defensive end this season, since although Adebayo can handle a guard on the perimeter, the guard who just switched can’t handle the rolling big man. It’s been a cycle, but Miami showed that they can end it when most needed.

There were moments where they would willingly switch, mostly when it involved Butler, Adebayo, or Iguodala. As seen here though, Adebayo stayed steady on his match-up with LeBron, forcing Max Strus to rotate down. This led to a turnover for the Lakers, instead of LeBron taking advantage of a one-on-one situation with Strus.

Adebayo making these decisions also has a lot to do with the personnel on the floor at the moment. He trusts Iguodala on the backside to step up, which was exactly what happened on this possession.

– The Block

For a player that is not known for his rim protection, every one of Adebayo’s most incredible plays involve a swat around the rim.

As the Lakers got into their transition offense, the ball found LeBron in stride. Adebayo noticed him moving downhill with Iguodala on his heels, which is why he exploded towards the action. He then timed it perfectly to block it off the backboard, creating a huge spark for Miami in the fourth quarter.

Also, length and quickness shouldn’t always be the headliner for these moments, since as I just mentioned, timing plays a big part in not only his blocking abilities, but just about everything, which I will explain next.

– Timing plays, reading the pace

As I just began to get into, timing plays a big part in a lot of Adebayo’s defensive success. He knows when to be in certain spots on the floor, when to jump in the air for a contest, and more.

But as seen on this play, that timing also can lead to reading the game at a deeper level. On the last block, he immediately exploded when seeing that one player was handling LeBron on the move. On this possession, he doesn’t explode toward the rim since three defenders are waiting for LeBron’s next move.

He was then in perfect position to deflect the pass, and cause another Laker turnover. As mentioned previously, it just isn’t about his athletic abilities all the time, since his basketball feel is just off the charts.

– Defending every option

Although this wasn’t smothering defense from Adebayo, and a shot LeBron usually knocks down, it’s necessary to evaluate his defensive positioning.

Guarding LeBron is non-comparable to any other match-up, since he can drive it into your chest, pull-up from three, or throw a no-look dime backdoor as soon as you fall asleep. And at that point in the game, forcing him into a three pointer was the best option.

But notice how many steps Adebayo takes inside the arc when defending him. It’s enough to recover from a blow by, while close enough to contest a jump-shot good enough as seen here.

He truly has the whole package on the defensive end, and it stands out even more when facing a player of LeBron’s caliber.

Heat trade

5 Most Important Trade Days in Heat History

The Miami Heat have never been shy about pulling the trigger on a big trade. Throughout franchise history, the Heat have targeted and secured some of the most important and talented players in the league. These days, trade rumors link the Heat to James Harden, an eight-time All-Star, three-time scoring champ and one-time league MVP.

Although recent reports indicate talks between the Heat and Houston may have stalled, Miami may pounce at any time. The Heat have a long history of trading for disgruntled stars in their prime. For Miami, it’s a matter of leverage, and rarely have the Heat lost this type of trade.

Blockbuster deals litter Miami’s history and each has seen the franchise vault into championship contention. Here’s a look at the five most important trade days in Heat history.

Heat Trade History: November 7, 1994

Arguably the most consequential trade in Miami Heat history came on November 7, 1994. On this date, the Heat dealt a young, future All-Star, Steve Smith, and a franchise cornerstone, Grant Long, with a 1996 second-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks for All-Star forward Kevin Willis and a 1996 first-round pick.

The Heat were coming off their first winning season and second playoff berth. They sported a talented young core and seemed to be on the rise in the Eastern Conference. But things soured with managing partners Lewis Schaffel and Billy Cunningham as the two embarked on a sudden roster retooling.

They traded Rony Seikaly to Golden State for Sasha Danilović and Billy Owens on November 2nd, then followed that with the Willis deal.

“I think there’s not one person in this world that has had any relationship with Lewis Schaffel that has continued to stay friends with Lewis,” Seikaly said after the trade.

Smith, then 25, was coming off a 17.3 points-, 5.1 assists- and 4.5 rebounds-per-game season and a summer appearance with “Dream Team II.” Smith criticized the Seikaly trade, only to find himself shipped off two games into the season.

This would be the last trade Schaffel and Cunningham would make for Miami.

The ’94-95 Heat flopped and the two would sell their club interest to franchise patriarch Ted Arison’s son, Micky, before the season even ended.

As the new managing partner, Arison hired Dave Wohl as GM. Wohl fired head coach Kevin Loughery and replaced him with Alvin Gentry on an interim basis to try to shake up the 17–30 Heat.

Heat fans may barely remember Willis’ tenure with the club. He averaged 14.2 points and 10 rebounds-per-game over parts of two seasons before being dealt away.

But this is one of the most important trades in Heat history because not only did it lead to Micky Arison acquiring controlling interest in the club, it also directly led to two other integral moves.

Enter Pat Riley

Following a disappointing ’94-95 season, new Heat management sought to reshape the franchise and looked to bring in Pat Riley. The former New York Knicks head coach had suddenly resigned after the ’94-95 season, reportedly rejecting a five-year, $15 million contract extension to stay in the Big Apple. Riley had one year left on his deal, but sought more control of the roster in New York, something team president Dave Checketts and GM Ernie Grunfeld weren’t willing to cede.

Riley reportedly negotiated a $40 million deal that included a 10 percent ownership stake with Micky Arison secretly. As a result, tampering charges were filed and the Heat were forced to surrender $1 million and a first-round pick to the Knicks.

The pick they sent? The one they’d landed in the Willis deal, Atlanta’s 1996 first round pick.

The “trade” officially posted on September 1, 1995, then Riley came on board in Miami. The city celebrated his arrival with a parade and shortly thereafter, Riley remolded the roster in his own image.

The Knicks, meanwhile, selected Walter McCarty with the No. 19 overall pick in 1996. McCarty played one season in New York, 35 games, averaging 1.8 points-per-game. He was traded to Boston ahead of the ’97-98 season. He played 10 seasons in the NBA, mostly as a reserve, and averaged 5.2 points and 2.6 rebounds-per-game for his career.

Heat Trade History: November 3, 1995

Pat Riley entered his Heat tenure aiming to make Miami a contender. So he did, for the first time, what would become his pattern: Riley targeted a disgruntled All-Star in his prime.

Alonzo Mourning had rejected a seven-year, $70 million contract extension in Charlotte earlier that offseason and things seemed destined for a breakup with the Hornets. Mourning reportedly wanted $13 million-per-year, but Charlotte couldn’t afford that after signing forward Larry Johnson to a 12-year, $84 million contract extension in 1993. (That deal made Johnson the richest athlete in the history of team sports at that point in time, and Zo wanted more.)

Riley identified Mourning as the centerpiece for his rebuild, a player in the mold of Patrick Ewing, his center in New York. Mourning came to Miami as a two-time All-Star and a someone who’d averaged over 21 points, 10 rebound and three blocks-per-game. So he flipped the final piece of Miami’s initial young core for the future Hall-of-Famer.

On November 3, 1995, the Heat sent Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, Khalid Reeves and a 1996 first-round pick to Charlotte for Mourning, Pete Myers and LeRon Ellis. Mourning immediately agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract extension and the rest is history.

Rice, meanwhile, left Miami as the franchise leader in points and games played. He’d won Miami’s first 3-Point Shootout crown the year prior and remained on an upward trajectory. Rice would go on to be a three-time All-Star for the Hornets and a two-time All-NBA performer. Rice would win a championship before Mourning, getting his lone title as part of the 2000 LA Lakers squad.

Deadline Day, 1996

Zo needed a running mate and Riley found him one later in that first season with Miami. On deadline day in 1996, Riley and the Heat made three separate trades to bolster the roster. The biggest deal landed Miami Tim Hardaway and Chris Gatling from Golden State for Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis.

The Heat had started that season well, going 11-3 through the first 14 games. But they languished after that, heading into the deadline at 24-29. Riley then reached for another disgruntled star Hardaway. He also landed veterans Gatling, as well as Tyrone Corbin, Tony Smith and Walt Williams in separate deals.

With a depleted roster after the deadline, the Heat faced Michael Jordan and the (eventual) 72-10 Chicago Bulls with just nine active players. The Heat upset Chicago 113-104 in what marked most memorable victory in franchise history at that time. Rex Chapman led the Heat that night, going for 39 points including 9-of-10 shooting from three.

Hardaway arrived soon thereafter and promised Mourning a playoff berth. He and Zo turned the season around and helped Miami make its third playoff appearance. The two would develop into one of the most potent tandems in the league and helped get the Heat to the top of the Eastern Conference over the next several seasons.

Heat Trade History: July 14, 2004

The course of Miami Heat history would change trajectory again in July of 2004 when Riley set his sights on yet another disgruntled star. Shaquille O’Neal’s falling out with the Lakers led to Riley pouncing on the future Hall-of-Famer. O’Neal and Bryant’s relationship soured, and the Lakers elected to appease their bright young star instead of the aging big man in the wake of the 2004 NBA Finals loss to Detroit.

The Heat featured an intriguing young core led by Dwyane Wade and were coming off a Conference Semifinal appearance. Miami flipped much of that young core to get their hands on Shaq. The Heat sent Caron Butler, Brian Grant and Lamar Odom (three starters), plus a 2006 first-round pick and a 2007 second-round pick to LA for O’Neal.

This seemed like a steep price for a player many felt was on the back end of his prime. But this trade led directly to Miami’s first NBA Championship. O’Neal should have been the league MVP in 2004-05 and had Wade not injured his ribs, this group may have hoisted two titles.

Interestingly, the Heat reacquired Steve Smith and Alonzo Mourning that season as well. Smith would retire after the ’04-05 season, but Mourning stayed around to help the Heat win the title in ’06. That ’06 title team took shape after Riley engaged in the largest trade in NBA history, a five-team trade that saw Miami land James Posey, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams.

Heat Trade History: July 10, 2010

The Heat shocked the sports world in 2010 with the arrival of the Big 3. While most tab these moves free agent signings, the acquisitions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh were technically sign-and-trade deals.

For James, the Heat shipped out a 2013 first-round pick, a 2016 first-round pick, and second rounders in 2011 and 2012, as well as the rights to a pick-swap in 2012. Of those four draft picks, Milan Mačvan, Jae Crowder, Nemanja Nedović and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, only Crowder played for Cleveland, but that wasn’t until 2017, several years into his NBA career. Luwawu-Cabarrot pick, though, helped facilitate the Cavaliers trade for Kevin Love in 2014.

The Bosh deal featured a pair of 2011 first-round picks going to Toronto, one which the Heat eventually reacquired and one which originally belonged to the Raptors.

The pick that eventually became Jonas Valančiūnas, the 2011 fifth overall selection, landed in Miami as part of a deadline deal 2009. That trade saw the Heat ship Shawn Marion, Marcus Banks and cash to Toronto for Jermaine O’Neal, Jamario Moon, a 2011 first- and a 2010 second-round pick.

The pick that eventually became Norris Cole made its way through three other franchises before returning to Miami. The Heat sent to Toronto in the Bosh sign-and-trade, then the Raptors sent it to Chicago for future Heat player James Johnson in February of 2011. The Bulls picked Cole in 2011, then traded him to Minnesota with Malcolm Lee for Nikola Mirotić.

The Heat acquired Cole from Minnesota on draft night in 2011. Miami picked Bojan Bogdanović with the No. 31 overall pick (second round) and used that to land Cole. Interestingly, the Heat had the choice of Cole or Jimmy Butler at that point in 2011.

The Big 3 Era Pays Off

The Heat floundered in the wake of their 2006 championship. O’Neal’s relationship in Miami deteriorated and saw the big man moved to Phoenix in a trade. Riley retooled the roster around Wade and O’Neal but never found the right combination before trading Shaq away in 2008.

The pieces he landed in that deal were Marion and Banks. Those two were integral in later trades for Jermaine O’Neal and the 2011 first-rounder which helped facilitate the Bosh sign-and-trade.

The Heat won two NBA titles and made four straight Finals appearances before seeing James walk in free agency. It took some time, but the lean years post-Big 3 era led to another interesting young core. Riley then used it as trade assets yet again.

Heat Trade History: July 6, 2019

The Miami Heat’s long history of targeting disgruntled stars led to the trade acquisition of another such All-Star in July of 2019. After engaging the Minnesota Timberwolves in trade talks for Jimmy Butler in 2018, the Heat got their man nearly a year later in a four-team deal with Philadelphia, Portland and the LA Clippers.

The Heat shipped off their own malcontent in Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers and Josh Richardson to the 76ers. They also sent a 2023 first-round pick to the Clippers to help facilitate the deal. In return, Miami landed Butler and Meyers Leonard. Also involved in that deal was current Heat forward Maurice Harkless, who almost came to Miami then but went from Portland to the Clippers instead.

On that same day, the Heat sent three future second-round picks (2022, 2025 and 2026) to Indiana as part of a three-team trade. The Pacers landed TJ Warren from Phoenix, while Miami received KZ Okpala from the Suns.

This trade helped solidify the young core in Miami and the Heat went on to a surprise NBA Finals run in 2020. Led by Butler, the Heat won the Eastern Conference Championship and took the LA Lakers to six games in the Finals.

There’s no telling when the next big trade will happen. But if there’s a disgruntled star out there, rest assured that Pat Riley will be engaged in trade talks. And if the Godfather is involved, the outcome always comes out in Miami’s favor.

3 Keys for the Miami Heat to Win Game Three

The Miami Heat are currently down 0-2 in the Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. There has been a lot of adjustments that have been made in the rotation, due to the absence of Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo. Although Bam is doubtful to play in game three, there is still a chance for him to play since he went to shoot-around this morning. Either way, here are some keys for game three…

#1: Miami must capitalize on their strength, which is three-point shooting.

This one seems fairly obvious, but since they haven’t shot the ball well from deep in the first two games of the series, it’s even more important now. If Miami wants to win in game three, they have to continue to shoot the ball without hesitation. Even if the shooting becomes problematic again, they must continue to get shots up since there’s no need to get away from their game. Obviously missing Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo has hurt it a bit, since Bam’s ability to work dribble hand-offs with his elite screen setting is very essential. Goran also helps shooters get going, since his ability to attack opens up the game for others. But either way, there’s no excuses to not shoot the ball well. They have more than enough guys who are capable of getting hot, and if they go cold once again, it’ll be a hard game to win.

#2: Although Miami can’t match the Lakers length, they must bring physicality.

As mentioned, Miami clearly can’t compete with the Lakers plethora of bigs, especially Anthony Davis. But what they can do is bring physicality to make Anthony Davis and others uncomfortable. This needs to happen if Bam Adebayo is playing or not. A perfect example is the first half of game one. Although they weren’t completely stopping those guys, they were making them work. If you don’t put a body on a roaming Anthony Davis when playing zone defense, it’ll be a long game for Miami. Also, I’d say that Miami will go to man a little bit more in game three, so they can throw a bunch of different guys at AD, much like they did against Giannis. Obviously you can’t do it to the same extent, since LeBron James is on the floor as well, but the Lakers run on the production of Anthony Davis. If Miami can make him uncomfortable, it’ll give them a shot to win this game.

#3: Miami will need to have one scorer stand out from the rest.

The scoring column in game two was pretty even throughout for Miami, but without Goran and Bam that can’t be the case. They will need to have one guy stand out offensively to put a stamp on game three. This is something that Miami hasn’t done much of, since they rely so heavily on their role players, but that may need to change tonight. There’s still many guys capable of doing so, including Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, or maybe a big game for Duncan Robinson or Kendrick Nunn. If somebody can play the role that Goran has played throughout this playoff run, it’ll open up the game for others. Jimmy Butler tried to do that in game two, but ultimately I feel Tyler Herro will step up in game three.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Game Two Loss to Lakers

The Miami Heat were without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic in game two, which led to a loss, 124-114. Jimmy Butler battled throughout, while others stepped up into the rotation. Here are five takeaways from the game…

#1: Jimmy Butler controls the pace early by doing everything on offensive end.

It was obvious that Jimmy Butler was going to need to take control of the offense in game two, and he did it in the most Jimmy Butler way. He continued to try and get his teammates going, which led to him dishing out eight assists in the first half. But when the three point shots aren’t falling, which will be discussed down the line, it’s tough for him to continue to play this way. He was doing everything he possibly could to try and get Miami this win, but there’s ony so much you can do without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. He did control the pace early as well, getting to the free throw line to try and slow the game down. This was just another representation of that Jimmy Butler impact.

#2: The Lakers control the paint once again.

The Los Angeles Lakers continued to take advantage of their length in game two, which led to them working the ball inside the paint. The zone definitely wasn’t helping either, since they seemed to have it figured out. Anthony Davis would cut down the baseline, which led to a bunch of easy layups and dunks. It’s also no easier to control Anthony Davis when Bam Adebayo isn’t on the floor. It was clear the Lakers would take advantage of this going in, but Miami needs to take advantage of their own strength, which is three point shooting. If they don’t capitalize on that, it’ll be tough for them to win.

#3: Six first half threes won’t cut it.

The three point shooting in the first half wasn’t ideal for Miami, only hitting 6 threes. Duncan Robinson’s 1 for 6 from deep in the first half was no help either, and with him struggling, it’s an even harder task for Jimmy Butler. Ultimately, even though the threes weren’t falling, you must continue to get the shots up. The only way you can get yourself back into the game is to play to your strengths, which is the shooting once again. Playing without Goran Dragic definitely hurt them offensively as well, since he’s a guy that they can always look to when the offense is choppy. The Duncan Robinson struggles may have had something to do with Bam not being out there, due to dribble hand-offs, screens, and the option of passing out of shot attempts to the roller.

#4: Anthony Davis’ outstanding performance is hard to beat.

Anthony Davis just showed once again why he is a star in this league. He was going to need to take control of this game, since he had a favorable match-up with Bam Adebayo out. He was doing it from absolutely everywhere on the floor, especially around the rim on offensive rebounds. Miami clearly couldn’t compete with AD above the rim due to the lack of bigs with that type of athleticism. He scored 32 points on 75% shooting, and grabbed 14 rebounds. And once again, when you don’t have Bam Adebayo to guard him one-on-one and play the zone, it makes it that much worse. There’s no way to stop Anthony Davis, but having Bam Adebayo out there to try and slow him down would’ve been pretty valuable.

#5: Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic were clearly missed.

This obviously goes without saying, but Miami missed Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic tonight. For starters, Bam Adebayo on the defensive end was much needed. A guy that you can throw at the offensively gifted Anthony Davis, but more importantly a guy that can thrive down low in the zone. Also, his screen setting and play-making abilities were missed offensively, which was a major reason the shooting wasn’t at their elite levels. Goran Dragic was also needed, since he would’ve been key in getting the offense flowing. His ability to attack the basket draws so much attention, that it opens up shooters as well. And lets not forget how great of a shooter Goran can be when called upon. Once again, it goes without saying, but Miami needs their offensive and defensive engines to win.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss in Game One of NBA Finals

The Miami Heat lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, 116-98, on a tough night for Miami. The loss wasn’t the worst part of the night for Miami, since they suffered some tough injuries throughout. Here are my takeaways from this game…

#1: Jimmy Butler lives up to “Jimmy Buckets” nickname out of the gate.

The beginning of the first quarter was looking pretty promising for Miami, since their offense was clicking behind the attack of Jimmy Butler. He came out with that offensive aggression once again, even hitting two early threes in the corner. He’s a guy that is fairly capable of doing this, but he knows that the team plays better when everyone else gets rolling. Jimmy went down with an apparent ankle injury towards the end of the second quarter, but seemed to be okay. It’s clear that Miami needs a 100% healthy Jimmy Butler for Miami to win some games in this series, but ultimately it’ll take a lot more than just Jimmy.

#2: Los Angeles Lakers’ role players step up, which were shots that Miami was going to allow.

Miami’s game-plan heading into this series with the Lakers was clear, double team LeBron James and Anthony Davis when they get the ball in their spots, and make the others around them beat you. And well, that’s exactly what the role guys did. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got going early, while Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and others followed right behind. Ultimately, this will not be the case going forward. Miami will continue to make those guys hit shots, and if they do, they will live with that. A lot of that though falls on their defensive issues, which will be discussed next.

#3: Miami’s defensive issues allow Lakers to pull away.

It was expected that Miami would be ready to compete defensively in this series, throwing many different schemes out there on the floor. But that wasn’t exactly the case. For starters, Miami’s defensive movement wasn’t where they’d like it to be. And also, although the role guys were hitting threes, containing the paint was the issue. You are not going to stop LeBron James and Anthony Davis from doing what they do, but you must make it tough on them. They were pretty much doing what they wanted when attacking the rim, and obviously AD got to work on the glass against the smaller lineups. These issues were clear, and it’ll be looked to be tweaked by game two.

#4: Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo injuries hold some question marks.

The Jimmy Butler injury occurred late in the second quarter, when he tweaked his left ankle. He ended up staying on the floor, but then even more news came in. Tyler Herro started in place of Goran Dragic to start the second half, and it was reported that he was doubtful to return with a left foot injury. Some fear that this is a series ending injury.

Bam Adebayo also went to the locker room in the third quarter, after getting his left arm tangled up, which appeared to re-injure his shoulder. He ended up not returning, which they listed it as a shoulder strain, but luckily the x-rays came back negative. Miami is already facing some on-court issues against this Lakers team, and these injury issues aren’t making it any easier. Miami’s depth is their advantage though, which means if anything is significant, they will be plugging in some guys down the roster including Kendrick Nunn, Kelly Olynyk, and others.

#5: Eyes are now on Erik Spoelstra.

Erik Spoelstra has had an outstanding playoff run since he’s implemented so many successful things on both sides of the ball. But now, it’s time for him to adjust once again. This doesn’t mean to flip their defensive game-plan, but they need to get back to their roots and increase intensity yet again. This could mean that we see a rotational change, maybe even seeing some Kelly Olynyk or Meyers Leonard minutes to get some bigger bodies on the floor. We will probably see Kendrick Nunn back in the rotation as well if Goran Dragic is out for the rest of the series. Either way, an adjustment will be made for game two. And there’s no better coach to do it than Erik Spoelstra.

Heat-Lakers NBA Finals 2020: How They Match Up

Miami has its work cut out for them in the NBA Finals as they will face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers present unique matchup problems for Miami. L.A. has two first-team All-NBA players in James and Anthony Davis surrounded by a host of savvy veteran players with championship experience. However, styles make fights and Miami may have a puncher’s chance.

 

The Heat played Los Angeles twice during the regular season in which the Lakers came away with wins in both games. The Lakers cruised to a 95-80 in the Staples Center in the early part of the season. Jimmy Butler led Miami with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Bam Adebayo chipped in 11 points and 9 boards and Goran Dragic had 19 with 7 assists. 

 

Miami was outrebounded 48-37 in the game, with Javale McGee, Davis and James combining for 22 of those boards. Ball movement was also lacking for Miami in the game. The Heat finished with only 18 assists compared to the 30 for L.A. It was the ninth game of the season.

 

The second win came down to a Davis shot late that led to a 113-110 thriller in Miami. Again, Butler was Miami’s leading scorer with 23 and Kendrick Nunn added 16 points in 36 minutes. Even with Bam grabbing 12 boards, Miami was still outrebounded by the Lakers, 50-34. Again McGee, Davis, LeBron and Dwight Howard led in those efforts.

 

Both rosters have seen major overhauls since they last met. Both Nunn and Meyers Leonard were starters and now neither player is in the rotation. Miami had yet to trade for Andre Iguodala or Jae Crowder, both who figure to play major roles in this series. And then there is Dion Waiters, who the Heat can’t seem to get rid of no matter what they do.

 

The Lakers are without Avery Bradley, a major contributor and starter during the regular season. Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso have seen their roles increase as a result. However, the main thing is still the main thing for the Lakers. James and Davis have lived up to their reputations as top-5 players in the league in the bubble. They will continue to be the engines for everything L.A. will try to do.

 

The Lakers will be the prohibitive favorite in this series, but that has been the case for the Heat in nearly every series. In each instance, where the opponents figured to have more talent, Miami has been able to win using a variety of methods. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has engineered strategies to neutralize league-MVP Giannis Antentokoumpto and bewilder the ultra-talented Boston Celtics. 

 

Miami has used hard-nosed defense and efficient offense to overcome what some view as a talent disparity in respect to their opponent. The key to this series will be if Miami can find a way to bother the Lakers dynamic duo. Easier said than done, right? Miami has the advantage in terms of guard play and overall depth. Outside of James and AD, the Lakers roster leaves a lot to be desired. The two average 25 and 26, respectively. Kyle Kuzma is the team’s next highest scorer at 12.

 

Miami’s balanced attack has six players averaging double figures in the postseason, led by Dragic at 21 points per game. Tyler Herro, who scored 14 points total in the two regular season meetings, will add an element that the Heat were lacking before the bubble. If he continues his current level of play, he could lead Miami’s bench against a lackluster Laker second unit. 

 

Other factors include Miami’s ability to throw multiple bodies at James, 3-point shooting, defensive matchups and smallball lineups. 

 

Butler, Crowder and Iguodala are all veteran defenders with experience covering LeBron. Bam may also spend a few possessions on him as well. Having that experience, albeit regular season except for Iguodala, should bode well in terms of making James work for his baskets. Bam seems to be the only reasonable matchup for AD. There is nobody else on the roster with the combination of length, athleticism and speed to deal with him. Having Duncan Robinson guard Danny Green keeps him out of foul trouble and on the floor. Unless……ya know…….the refs call some more of those invisible Duncan fouls they love so much.

 

If LA is going to start two bigs, that could also work in Miami’s favor depending on if Crowder finds his shot. In the past four games, Crowder has been left wide open for three. He will need to convert in this series to maximize the floor spacing. Forcing LA to play smaller is Miami’s best chance to keep this series competitive because they don’t have the bigs to deal with Davis, McGee and Howard.

 

Ultimately, this series will be the most difficult of them all, as it should be. The Lakers will be the ultimate test. If the previous series are any indication, the Heat will be prepared.

Bam Blocks

5 Best Blocks in Miami Heat History

The Miami Heat took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night, defeating the Boston Celtics 117-114 in overtime. The headline-making play came from Heat center Bam Adebayo, a first-time All-Star this season and member of the 2019-2020 NBA All-Defense Second Team. Adebayo met Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum at the summit in the closing moments of overtime and blocked the would-be game-tying dunk attempt. It was one of the best blocks in Heat history.

Reactions spanned the gamut on social media. NBA players and celebrates alike fawned in awe. Heat legend Dwyane Wade posted a Dikembe Mutombo gif, his wife, Gabrielle Union, screamed “BAMMMMMMM!!! MONSTER BLOCK!!” Even pop-star Halsey called the Heat “spicyyyyy.”

The NBA legend Magic Johnson came thundering in with his opinion:

 

Magic’s hot take sparked plenty of debate across sports networks and social media. But the question is: Was Bam Adebayo’s Block the Greatest Block in Heat History?

No. 5: DWade Blocks Amar’e Stoudemire

Dwyane Wade is largely considered the greatest shot-blocking guard in NBA history. He’s certainly that for the Miami Heat. And while Wade sports so many highlight reel rejections on his resume, perhaps the greatest of those came 2005.

During a late March contest between the Heat and Phoenix Suns, Wade authored one of his signature plays. In the closing moments of the third quarter, Leandro Barbosa ran a pick-and-roll with Amar’e Stoudemire. Barbosa hit the rolling Amar’e with a pocket pass to the middle of the key and Stoudemire rose up for his two-point attempt.

From the weakside, though, Wade flew in and didn’t so much block Amar’e’s shot but spiked it to the court. He gathered the loose ball, took one dribble, then heaved a 60-foot shot from the opposite three-point line as the quarter buzzer sounded. He drilled the shot and the American Airlines Arena exploded.

Wade comes in at No. 5 here because, despite the spectacular nature of the play, the stakes of the game and moment were not at the level of the next four.

No. 4: LeBron Blocks Tiago Splitter

LeBron James holds arguably the greatest block in NBA history: his chase down of Andre Iguodala during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. But he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers then, so that play doesn’t count.

For the Heat, James’ most impactful block came during Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals. In the fourth quarter, coming off a Game 1 loss, the Heat held a tenuous lead. Off an inbounds play, the Spurs ran a pick-and-roll with Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter. Miami’s aggressive defense backfired when Splitter slipped the screen and Parker found him with a perfect bounce pass.

Splitter thought he had an easy dunk, but James had other ideas. James erased the dunk attempt at its peak. Splitter tried the spike the ball one-handed, but James swallowed the attempt right at the front of the rim. The ensuing fast break led to a corner three from Ray Allen (on a James assist) to give Miami a 89-67 lead en route to the Game 2 victory.

James holds No. 4 here because, while the block itself was spectacular, that game was largely in hand at that point.

No. 3: Zo Blocks Jason Terry

Alonzo Mourning remains the Miami Heat’s all-time leader in blocks. He tallied 1,625 of them in 593 games over 11 seasons. In 82 career playoff games with the Heat, Zo rejected 171 shots.

Perhaps the biggest and most important of those came in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. While Zo never led Miami to the championship as a centerpiece of the team, his pivotal defensive stop late in Game 6 helped the Heat hoist the franchise’s first trophy.

The Heat clung to a five-point lead in the fourth quarter in Dallas when the Mavs had a fast break. Jason Terry attacked from the wing and hoisted a runner. Zo came flying down the lane to swat Terry’s attempt into the seats. He tumbled to the court and seemed to be excited about the block. It was later revealed Zo was angry with Gary Payton.

 

Mourning’s effort on the play and in that game (eight points, six rebounds and a game-high five blocks) helped the Miami Heat win their first ever NBA Championship. He gets No. 3 on this list because, even though that was a play Heat fans saw Zo accomplish nearly 2,000 times in his career, the stakes were never higher.

No. 2: Bam Blocks Jayson Tatum

The Heat’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals remains on of the most impressive and unlikely stories in the NBA this season. One of the main reasons for Miami’s ascension up the East ladder has been the play of Bam Adebayo.

Overlooked during the draft, the Heat have modeled Bam into one of the league’s most impactful young players. He’s a prototypical neo-big, with an ability to score, handle and defend across multiple positions. Nowhere was Bam’s defensive acumen on display more than the closing moments of last night’s Game 1.

Down two, the Boston Celtics turned to their 22-year-old All-Star Jayson Tatum in hopes of tying the game. Bam had other plans. Tatum worked past Jimmy Butler and launched himself toward the rim. He cocked back the ball with one-hand as Bam rotated over and elevated to meet him.

Bam erased Tatum’s dunk attempt with his offhand, avoiding any physical contact and potential whistle. The ball remained in play, Bam secured it and was fouled. The Heat secured the Game 1 win on the back of Bam’s defensive brilliance.

No. 1: Bosh Blocks Danny Green

The Big 3 Experiment was on the line in the 2013 NBA Finals. Sure, the Heat had won in 2012, but two Finals losses in three years could have spelled the end for the Wade, James and Chris Bosh triumvirate.

Bosh played a pivotal role down the stretch of Game 6 in 2013. The famous play will always remain Bosh’s rebound and assist to Allen to tie the game near the end of regulation. But in overtime, after the Heat had taken a 3-point lead, the Spurs had a final chance to tie the contest.

With less than two seconds remaining, Tim Duncan found Danny Green racing to the opposite corner. Green had come free after a Splitter screen. Bosh sprinted to the corner and timed his block perfectly. With Green fading off the floor, Bosh met him and spiked the ball down. Spurs cried foul then, and it would most certainly be a foul now, but it wasn’t one in 2013.

It’s the greatest of all Miami Heat blocks because it capped the most unlikely comeback and saved the Big 3 Era in the process.

Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler vs. NBA’s best duos

The NBA is filled with star powered duos. The league has gotten more and more balanced each year, that even the bottom tier teams have an enticing one-two punch.

A prominent duo is not only based off each player’s personal success, but the camaraderie that the two players have together on the court.

This list is based on the current status of the best duos in today’s NBA, and barring no injuries.

 

15. Karl Anthony Towns and D-Angelo Russell: Minnesota Timberwolves

This one will take a little time, after Russell was acquired for Andrew Wiggins at the deadline. Towns and Russell should have pretty good chemistry established since they rose through the AAU circuit together.

 

14. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray: Denver Nuggets

This duo has progressed each year, with Jokic’s unparalleled passing ability and Murray’s shooting, and there’s room to grow. They led Denver team to a three seed in the West this season, and just need to prove it consistently together in the playoffs.

 

13. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert: Utah Jazz

On the court, this has worked, with Mitchell’s playmaking and scoring and Gobert’s paint-patrolling defense and rebounding. Off the court? Well, that’s been a bit more problematic since Gobert’s actions at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, though some say they’ve patched things up. We’ll see.

 

12. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry: Toronto Raptors

It might’ve seemed as if Lowry would finally be a first option with DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard elsewhere , but that’s not the case. Siakam emerged as an All-Star, with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Lowry remained steady, at 20 points and 8 assists, and the Raptors kept rolling to a surprising second seed in the East.

 

11. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo: Miami Heat

After Butler was traded to the Heat, who would’ve thought he would find a running mate that could help him lead this Miami team to a four seed in the East? Certainly no one outside of Miami. Not a bad result considering that some said Jimmy came to Miami to retire. While they’ve paired well offensively, their real strength is their defensive passion and versatility, the latter of which is virtually unmatched around the NBA.

 

10. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker: Boston Celtics 

Walker slid in for Kyrie Irving, Tatum took a leap, and suddenly the Celtics were the third seed. Tatum averaged 24 points and 7 rebounds, and Walker added 21 points and four assists. Walker never played with anyone as good as Tatum in Charlotte.

 

9. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: Philadelphia 76ers

On talent alone, this might be the top duo. But their games don’t really complement each other like some of the others. The collective numbers show that each performs better with the other off the floor, since their lack of spacing together tends to clog the lane. The individual numbers (Embiid with 23 points and 12 boards, and Simmons averaging a near triple double) are outstanding. Time will tell if they can figure it out.

 

8. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis: Dallas Mavericks

Size and offensive skill. Doncic is already elite, and Porzingis was starting to get back to that level after a major knee injury. He’s also shown he’s comfortable being the No. 2 option. But can they defend well enough together to win anything meaningful, coming out of the West?

 

7. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum: Portland Trail Blazers

No backcourt in the NBA can score like this one, outside of a healthy Warriors squad. Defensively? Well, not always ideal. But Portland’s fall this season was due mostly to injuries. Assuming they stick together, they should be contending for a top-4 seed again.

 

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton: Milwaukee Bucks

One’s the reigning and likely MVP: 30 points, 14 rebounds, and everything in between. Middleton has always been solid in every area, but he elevated this season, with a 21/6/4 statline, same as Paul George. Can Middleton be counted on when Giannis is crowded in the playoffs?

 

5. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson: Golden State Warriors.

They are the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. They just need to get healthy again. Klay Thompson didn’t rely on athleticism, so the ACL injury doesn’t seem insurmountable. Curry should be fine. They’ll be even better if Andrew Wiggins can give them a third threat, and take some pressure off.

 

4. James Harden and Russell Westbrook: Houston Rockets

The most controversial duo? Sure. James Harden is constantly criticized for his ball-pounding style of play and Russell Westbrook has been criticized in the past for only caring about triple-doubles. And they’ve both had down moments in the postseason, especially Harden. The stats, though, can’t be ignored. Harden leads the league in scoring and Westbrook was surging before the shutdown.

 

3. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: Brooklyn Nets

We haven’t seen it yet, but have a sense of how good it could be. First, Durant needs to get healthy, but it appears that’s already happened. Irving needs to show, again, that he can share the ball and the spotlight. But this dueo has the potential to leap to No. 1 if their games connect as expected. They may be unguardable.

 

2. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George: Los Angeles Clippers

The top two-way duo. Only load management has kept them out of the top spot in the West. They can guard every position, score and distribute. George has something to prove in the postseason, but we’ve all seen what Leonard does there. Both in their prime, too. So this isn’t ending anytime soon.

 

 

1. LeBron James and Anthony Davis: Los Angeles Lakers

Rejuvenated by playing with another top-5 player,. LeBron put up 26 points a game along with 8 rebounds and 11 assists. LeBron has stepped aside in some ways for Davis, who can score at all three levels. Can LeBron continue at this pace? Can Davis hold up physically? And will Davis sign long-term? Those are the only questions. These two guys are the scariest duo for any team they go against.

 

Brady Hawk (@MiamiHawk607) is the youngest member of Five Reasons Sports, and the only one who aspires to be a sports agent. Hear him discuss this piece on Five on the Floor. 

Dwyane Wade to Have Jersey Retired by Miami Heat

Dwayne Wade is coming home.

A Miami Heat legend will get his due in February. According to a report from the Orlando Sun Sentinel, Dwayne Wade will have his jersey retired on February 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This will be exactly two years and two weeks after Cleveland traded Wade back to Miami.

When you look at his resume, it’s truly impressive in regards to what Wade did throughout the course of his career. A three-time NBA champion, the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, and a 13-time NBA All-Star are just some of the things he has accomplished. Wade had success from the get-go,  making the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2004.

In addition to those accomplishments, he was named the MVP of the All-Star Game in 2010 and was the NBA scoring champion in 2009. That year, he scored 30.2 points per contest. It was the best season of his career, and a performance that is not going to be forgotten.

Although the years with Lebron James were some of the best in Miami Heat history, the 2006 NBA Finals was where Wade was able to make his most significant mark in the postseason.

2006 a major year in Miami Heat history

Wade played in 23 games in the 2006 postseason, starting all of them. He made 219-of-441 field goal attempts, scoring 653 points.  That was Dwayne Wade at his best, and it was fascinating to see him  play at that high a level. The way that Wade and Shaquille O’Neal held down the fort during that run was impressive. That was just one of the many highlights for Wade in what was a storied career.

Do you want tickets? You’re going to have to pay up. According to prices from StubHub, the lowest possible seat cost at the moment is $158.10. If you want to pay that, you’ll be sitting in Balcony Corner, seat 403.

For a night like this, it’s worth it. Wade embodied the Miami Heat from the time he arrived in the organization.  It will certainly be great to see him back home at American Airlines Arena.

Heat/Lakers is Game Heat Nation Deserves

The Miami Heat host the Los Angeles Lakers Friday in what could be this year’s most anticipated matchup to date.

The timing could not be better.

Miami (18-6) will put their undefeated home record to the ultimate test against a Los Angeles Lakers (22-3) team which has only lost one away game.

Finally the (well deserved) national attention will be on a Heat team that is the most enjoyable in years.

All NBA eyes will be on the American Airlines Arena for the ESPN broadcast, and rightfully so.

A lot of people expected the Lakers to be here, with the combination of Lebron James and Anthony Davis along with a solid supporting cast.

However few outside our market expected this quick cohesion and success from the Heat.

An ignorant or lazy narrative on Jimmy Butler and how he would mesh with a young core.

 

A lack of understanding that Erik Spoelstra only needed a functional, uncluttered roster to free untapped greatness.

 

Now the Heat enter this game with a chance to add momentum to an ascending national profile.

Against Lebron James and a Los Angeles team which has also reset trajectory and expectations instantaneously.

The Lakers have won five straight and 15 out of 16 games, their lone defeat a 114-100 home loss to Dallas.

Miami will have their hands full with a Laker offense that leads the NBA in field goal percentage at 48.7%.

Where they hurt you is down low with Anthony Davis who absurdly leads them in points (27.2), rebounds (9.2), blocks (2.6), and steals (1.5) per game.

They do not rely on the three point shot, attempting the sixth lowest (30.1) per game, but they make them at a 37.1% clip which is fifth best league-wide.

That counters Miami’s excellent defense beyond the arc, their biggest challenge in terms of matchups may be how to stop Davis in the block – who can also stretch the floor from the outside.

The keys for the Heat

For the Heat to have a chance they will have to take care of the ball as they are turning it over a league-high 17.7 times per game. Los Angeles leads the league in blocks per game and are third in steals.

While national respect is not a motive for the Heat in any way, shape, or fashion, you know they will want to put on a show under the brighter lights.

The Lakers had an extra rest day Thursday after a 96-87 slugfest win at Orlando on Wednesday.

Miami enters off another home victory, this time a 135-121 overtime thriller against Trae Young and the Hawks on Tuesday.

Young apparently forgot the Heat are closing games this year.

 

A matchup with two teams rated in the top 10 both offensively and defensively means something has to give.

Both teams should be fresh and expect a full 48 minutes of excellent basketball in this one, the always electric Triple-A should have even more juice Friday.

As should the case for more national spotlight in Heat Nation.

 

 

Voices

Thursday Trends: 3 Plays in the NBA Bubble

So some things never change.

Like Dion Waiters’ belief being stronger than your doubt.

But in these Bubble-licious times, much is different than we anticipated. We should be used to odd circumstances by now — after all, who knew we would have a reality TV star overriding the science-based recommendations of one of the most decorated infectious disease specialists on the planet? Or that pizza delivery drivers would become essential workers? Or that the Miami Marlins would be in first place in baseball’s National League East on August 6 after playing just six games?

Here are three NBA trends not everyone saw coming, and how seriously you should take them:

 

“Cash Considerations” Cashing In

Yes, cash considerations. That’s what the Phoenix Suns got for forward TJ Warren and a second-round pick on NBA Draft night. Warren, best known previously for getting the finger and getting called “trash” and “soft” and “not on my f—- level” by the Heat’s Jimmy Butler. Warren has been above everyone level’s in Orlando, averaging 39.7 points in three games, all Indiana Pacers wins.

Will it continue?: Well, not to this degree, since a run like this would rank with anything Michael Jordan ever did -to anyone other than LaBradford Smith. But, while few noticed, Warren was shooting 61 percent in February and 51 percent in March, while averaging 19.9 points per game. So he’s good.

The Betting Edge: Do you trust Indiana in the playoffs? That depends on Domantas Sabonis and Vic Oladipo more than Warren. If the Pacers keep winning, they’ll likely finish 4th or 5th in the East, especially since they have two regular Bubble games left with the Heat. Then they’ll likely face the Heat. And, the Butler-Warren intrigue aside, the Pacers aren’t beating the Heat unless they can throw more at Bam Adebayo than just Myles Turner up front, and can exploit the Heat’s point of attack defensive issues with Oladipo. Will Sabonis (foot) come back? Will Oladipo (knee) round into form? If not, the Pacers are still a first round exit.

 

Raptors Rise 

They’re taking this Lockdown in the Bubble seriously, eh? First in defense through three games with a ridiculous 96.1 rating. Small sample size? Sure. But there’s no reason it can’t continue. The Raptors are quick, long, switchy and deep, and they did a number on the Heat’s offense Monday, frustrating sniper Duncan Robinson off the floor. This has been the NBA’s best team since February 15.

Will it continue?: Why wouldn’t it? Toronto is fully healthy for the first time all season, and has developed a game independent of Kawhi Leonard. Nick Nurse has already proven to be an elite coach. Plus, Kyle Lowry is good for a final minute flop that seals the deal.

The Betting Edge: Keep picking the Raptors until other bettors catch on. News seems to travel slow to the States for some reason (we are dismantling the federal post office here, after all), and even with a few NBA analysts catching on, it’s not like anyone really listens to Kendrick Perkins.

 

Lakers Clankers 

They’re first in the West for sure, having clinched that already, even with LeBron James somehow characterizing that as some sort of unexpected achievement. Anthony Davis is taking the leap after the leap after the leap, establishing himself as a top-5 player until his bad luck forces him to fracture an orbital bone, and LeBron — while disconnected at times so far — should pick up his play when it matters. But here’s the thing: beyond them, this team just isn’t that good offensively, and it’s mostly reflected in their shooting. Even with Rajon Rondo absent for now (which is for the best), the Lakers are making just 25 percent of their three point shots in the Bubble regular season games, and it’s hard to see how that gets much better. That’s the reason they were dead last in offensive rating in the Bubble through four games, at 96.6, which is what TJ Warren now scores for Indiana in a quarter.

Will it last?: Well, this is almost impossible to predict, since you’re counting on the likes of the aforementioned erratic Waiters, TMZ Kyle Kuzma and the always amusing JR Smith. (And what happened to Danny Green?). The question is how much it matters if the Lakers defend as they can, even without Avery Bradley, and Davis and James play to their potential together.

The Betting Edge: It’s difficult to trade 2’s for 3’s all game. If the Lakers draw Portland in the first round, they’re unlikely to lose, but the Blazers might be worth a play on the points a couple of times, with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum likely to do damage.