Bam Adebayo's theory for the Heat's blowout win over the Cavs is refreshingly simple

Mar 24, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA;  Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) drives to the basket as
Mar 24, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) drives to the basket as / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat exhibited defensive dominance in a 121-84 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. There was never a back-and-forth game. Miami held a double-digit lead in the first quarter and didn't look back. 

Clearing the benches at the end of the third quarter hasn’t happened often for the Heat this season. They’ve had to earn their wins in the mud. The final minutes of the fourth quarter became Miami’s sweet spot. In a crucial game against the Cavaliers, the Heat turned to their defensive identity.

Holding a team to less than 100 points seems nearly impossible in the modern NBA, but Miami challenged that norm. The Cavs had 39 points in the first half, shooting 28.6% from three. Their highest-scoring quarter was a mere 27 in the fourth quarter once Miami’s third-string took the court. 

“Like I always say man, let our defense be our offense,” said Bam Adebayo. 

The Miami Heat blew out the Cleveland Cavaliers thanks to a dominant defensive performance that should help set the tone for their playoff push.

It wasn’t just defending well and playing into preferred offensive sets. Miami turned defense into offense with 24 fastbreak points. Cleveland had two all night. This result came from coach Erik Spoelstra going sprinkling in a full-court press defense and a 2-3 zone in the halfcourt. 

The Cavaliers were forced to play their halfcourt offense with 14-16 seconds remaining on the shot clock for the majority of the game. Miami was pesky and played right into their planned schemes. Adebayo led the night with five steals, while seven other players had at least one. 

“They were able to just fly around and make a lot of instinctive plays,” Spoelstra said. “Some of it is how you want it to go by design, but the zone is really more read and react. You have to be a playmaker, and you have to have instincts for it too.”

Miami had the advantage in every major category, other than blocked shots. They had 44 rebounds to the Cavs' 30, 29 assists to the Cavs' 23, 13 steals to the Cavs' three, and nine turnovers to the Cavs’ 17. From top to bottom, they simply outperformed the Cavaliers. 

Cleveland had one player in double figures, with Evan Mobley scoring a team-high 15 points. Miami didn’t have anyone explode on offense either, but seven players in double-figures was the key to a consistent game. 

A balanced offensive game, with the energy focused toward the defensive end produced one of the best games the Heat has played all season. This was a crucial game for Miami, who sits at No. 8 in the Eastern Conference standings. A blowout victory should give the Heat some confidence and momentum to finish the regular season on the right foot.