On an evening that saw formidable former hero LeBron James return to South Beach, the limelight was very much stolen by a destructive performance from Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo on both ends of the floor.
The ever-improving center registered his seventh career triple-double in Monday’s 108-107 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers; Adebayo gathered a sensational 22 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. Six of these were recorded in regular season showings, yet Bam filed his first in post-season action in last season’s first-round series-clinching Game 5 victory in Milwaukee.
Dwyane Wade was surpassed on the Heat’s all-time triple-double chartin Monday’s victory, as the 26-year-old all-star also capped off his stellar night by becoming the first player in franchise history to register a 20-point and 20-rebound triple-double.
Uncharacteristically, Adebayo’s evening began with him nailing an attempt from outside the arc as he and Jimmy Butler netted Miami’s first threes inside the opening two minutes. Audible gasps rang around Kaseya Center as Davis provided Bam with more than enough time and space to fire home his ninth career three.
Two-man actions between Adebayo and Tyler Herro paid dividends for Miami throughout pre-season and at the start of this campaign, and the pair continued to cause issues for the Lakers’ backcourt tonight. Adebayo’s post splits are becoming increasingly deadly as an offensive weapon for the Heat, and Herro’s seamless ability from mid-range creates a somewhat indefensible play.
A mismatch was exploited when the triple-double leader executed an elegant spin move on D’Angelo Russell in the paint to create a comfortable finish for himself. The limitless energy of Adebayo would prove to be at his detriment on this possession however, as a technical foul was called for the “unsportsmanlike” hanging onto of the rim.
Ultimately, some of Lakers star Anthony Davis’ minutes were hampered by concern over his second-quarter groin injury, but Davis had a far from comfortable night even while healthy. Most notably, Bam blocked Davis’ fadeaway jumper to spring a fastbreak that ended with an easy Butler score at the basket.
Adebayo has expressed his dismay over the Defensive Player of the Year award being a statistics-based award the rewards steals and blocks, but plays like this will grab attention and put him firmly in contention.
Later, Adebayo flexed after a hustle play that forced an and-one opportunity from a contested rebound against Christian Wood and Austin Reaves. Bam’s confidence is shining through in all aspects of his game at the moment.
On a night where franchise president Pat Riley’s infamous slogan about his teams being the “hardest working, best conditioned, most professional unselfish, toughest, meanest and nastiest” in the NBA was illustrated onto the court, it was fitting that their all-star center epitomized Heat Culture to drive Miami to a much-needed victory.
Herro’s ability to pick out the big man under the basket continued to be profitable in the second half for Miami; Adebayo finished with a two-hand crusher slam in transition from Herro’s drop-off bounce pass to force a Lakers third-quarter timeout. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Heat’s 12-point lead which was gathered in the heart of Bam’s third-quarter masterclass was cut in half in just three minutes of his departure. Spoelstra was left to prematurely bring his starting center and small forward back onto the floor in the opening stages of the fourth as a momentum shift was clear.
A careless turnover in the Heat’s final offensive possession could have, on another day, been fatal for a Heat side that would have been staring down the barrel with one win in five in the regular season. Adebayo, however, remained locked in as ever in his double-team defense on LeBron alongside Butler to force a cross-court switch to Cam Reddish, an inconsistent 3-point shooter whose attempt here bounced off the rim.
The star of tonight’s show was warmly greeted by the shining light from a Lakers perspective in James as the buzzer sounded, as a mark of respect. Though the sample size is undeniably small, Adebayo is on course for his most efficient scoring season after achieving 20 points per game last year, and there is a genuine question to be asked regarding the height of Adebayo’s ceiling.
A Wednesday night clash in Memphis against the 1-6 Grizzlies is next for Bam and Miami, as the Heat will look to record a third straight victory in a bid to correct their poor early-season form.