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Friday, January 27, 2023

Spoelstra on Heat’s Adebayo playing in beast mode, ‘We can’t get the ball to him enough’ – Boston Herald

The Miami Heat still are not quite there yet, because it generally is not the approach from an Erik Spoelstra team, save, perhaps, for when the leading man was LeBron James.

But if there is question about where the offensive focus stands this season, Spoelstra cleared any doubt after Wednesday night’s 124-98 road romp over the New Orleans Pelicans.

To a degree, center Bam Adebayo also removed any doubts with his 26-point performance that came on 11-of-15 efficiency from the field.

“I love it,” Spoelstra said, energetic and enthused in his words. “We all love the aggressiveness. And he’s doing it in so many different ways.”

Mostly, though, the sixth-year center is doing it from short range, on Wednesday night moving past Giannis Antetokounmpo for the NBA lead in points in the paint.

“We ultimately want to get Bam involved as much as possible,” Spoelstra said. “We can’t get the ball to him enough. And that’s not just clearing out a side of the floor and trying to post him up. It takes a collaboration. There has to be a synchronicity of pick-and-roll basketball. But we don’t want to go too many possessions where we haven’t tried to get him the ball.”

The unique aspect of Adebayo’s paint points is it is not the prototypic rim-or-bust approach of so many big men. It is, instead, a feathery touch that extends to the foul line.

“He’s great at getting all the way to the rim, and he was doing that [Wednesday],” Spoelstra said, with the Heat next turning their attention to Friday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, at the close of this three-game trip. “But his paint shots, right in the circle, that’s such a go-to shot for him. That’s a credit to the work that he’s put in, particularly against drop coverages, just to really be so efficient on those little 12- to 14-foot shots.”

There was a point, almost frustratingly so, when Adebayo took a pass-first mentality, with a keen ability from the foul-line area to move the ball for open shots for others. In recent seasons, it almost was as if he had to be weaned from such proclivity.

Now, unapologetically, eyes on the rim.

“I’m just getting to my spots, and nobody has a problem with it,” Adebayo said of teammates embracing his scoring. “Guys want me to be assertive, they want me to be aggressive. That’s why they throw the ball in the pocket.

“From there, it’s either shot or pass. I’m doing a lot more shooting, though.”

In large part, the play of Adebayo has fueled Heat recent dominance in points in the paint, including a 64-48 advantage Wednesday over the Pelicans. That, in turn, has fueled a run that has the Heat with victories in 13 of their last 19.

“Well, it helps when you got Bam,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “Bam is playing [great]. He’ll be an All-Star. He should be an All-Star and he will be, I think.

“His production has been unbelievable in that range of 13 to 4 feet. He’s not missing shots and just kind of finishing.”

All while approaching the task with a diversity in the approach.

“Points in the paint,” Adebayo said, “is not like all rim attempts. They’re all floaters, jumpers and mixing it up. It’s not just locking into the rim.

“And I feel like that’s what makes it difficult because it’s like that gray area.”

So, yes, feeding the beast, who continues to play in beast mode.

“As good as it is for him,” forward Jimmy Butler said, “I think it just goes to show how we’re making it a focus to make sure that he gets the ball when he’s in the paint, especially because he’s scoring at an incredibly high rate. And I think he’s doing a good job of setting screens, getting out in transition, doing it in a multitude of ways.

“We’ve got to continue to give him the ball, because we need him to be dominant.”

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