Mateo’s Hoop Diary: No Ceiling for Bam Adebayo
It was the third encounter in a week between the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. Each outfit had copped a win at home, and habits and weaknesses were understood by both sides heading into Friday night’s game. At this point, it was a battle of wills.
The Heat rolled into their 20th game without Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson. The starting lineup was Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Nikola Jović and Bam Adebayo.
The boxscore is not kind to this rotation. Through two games, they score 28.5 points on 52.3% shooting from the field, but the opponent (Washington) scores five more points on 60.5% efficiency from the floor, per NBA Stats.
Yet, the team is 2-0 in the games they start.
A few factors contributing to the rough defensive numbers are A. Miami is using a rookie, Jović, out of necessity with so many guys out. Despite his unmistakable feel for the game, he is still raw, and someone defenses will likely target first. B. Herro finally returned over the past two wins after missing eight straight nights with a hurt ankle. C. The Heat have no choice but to rely heavily on the 2-3 zone because the guys available, aside from Adebayo, Martin, and maybe Lowry, can’t be counted on to get a stop by themselves.
Nonetheless, this five-man unit produced 39 of 110 Heat points in 14.5 minutes on Friday.
But what won Miami the game?
The Heatles were much sharper in the zone than the Wizards. Both squads shot below 30% from deep, but the home team managed to close off the lane more effectively. The hosts gave up only 46 points in the box to their rivals.
Contesting the 3-point line, Miami had length covering the baseline and corner. On one play, Bradley Beal curled around a Kristaps Porziņģis dribble-handoff and broke into the square as he was iced by Herro and Adebayo. He then dished to the corner, but Jović closed out perfectly on Deni Avdija in the corner, forcing the miss.
In another instance, Washington had a mismatch in transition as Dewayne Dedmon matched up with Corey Kispert. Barton passed to Kispert, who was running towards the right wing, but Dedmon only stayed a step behind the arc. Unwisely, Washington’s 3-point specialist hoisted a triple over his 7-foot tall defender, kissing nothing but the front of the iron.
Miami obliterated Washington’s interior, scoring 62 paint points. Trays weren’t falling with ease from deep for the Heat, but they managed to get inside the teeth of the opponent’s zone for a shot inside without much resistance.
Adebayo finished with 38 points, making 68% of his attempts, with 12 rebounds and three dimes. His two-way production guided them through 36 minutes. His fourth-quarter mastery catapulted the Heat to victory.
With Miami down six points in the final period, Adebayo ran a DHO with Herro on the left wing. As both defenders blitzed Tyler, he snuck a bounce pass between the coverage into a rolling Adebayo for the jam.
On his next bucket, in transition, Adebayo dribbled downhill past Kyle Kuzma for a soft finish at the cup.
For his third, fourth-quarter basket, he posted up Anthony Gill in the low post and backed him down into the lane. Adebayo then turned for a right-handed five-foot hook shot.
As the roll man after a pick set for Martin, Adebayo trailed the cutting ball handler, who missed at the rim. #13 went up for the putback and forced a goaltend.
On his last field goal, the Lowry-Adebayo pick and roll was run flawlessly. With the Heat up a point and 28 seconds remaining, Adebayo set a high screen for Lowry to shed Beal. Kyle cut right as Bam rolled left, attacking the drop coverage. The bounce pass was delivered into the pocket as “No Ceiling” kept cutting and finished through Porziņģis.
In the fourth quarter, Bam scored 12 points, making 5/7 shots.
Over his last five games (Heat are 3-2), Adebayo is averaging 24.2 points a night on 48% efficiency from the field, plus 10.6 boards and 2.8 assists, per Basketball Reference. Butler only played in one of those games- Miami’s one-point win at home over Phoenix on Nov. 14.
Also noteworthy about this minuscule sample size is that Adebayo is making 7/8 free throws a night. Getting to the line more than a few times a game helps a team by giving the players a breather, and they can get into defensive position much easier following the last freebie.
With the team undermanned and some personnel in different roles than last season, Adebayo must continue this stretch of brilliance when Butler returns to the lineup. He and JB are the squad’s best options for creating pressure inside. The best way to make sure the group’s snipers are left alone or poorly defended is if the two of them inflict maximum damage in the lane.
To his credit, Bam has shown up yearly with improvements to his scoring arsenal. Last season, 60.8% of baskets were assisted. Through 18 games in this campaign, only 52.9% of buckets come with help, per Basketball Reference.
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