What Heat’s Adebayo vowed after a 41-point game. And perspective on his impressive growth

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Barry Jackson
·6 min read
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Heat center Bam Adebayo cannot promise any more 41-point eruptions like the masterpiece he crafted on Saturday night in Brooklyn.

But he can promise this: He will be more aggressive offensively moving forward.

With Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro sidelined, Adebayo attempted 20 shots, making 14 of them, while going 12 for 14 from the line, in Miami’s 128-124 loss.

Though 20 shots is atypical - he had attempted 20 in a game only once before, last season in a loss against Atlanta - Adebayo acknowledged Saturday that he must attack more offensively, even if the Heat is at full strength.

“From now on, I have to be ultra aggressive from the start,” he said. “I can’t have any games where I’m not aggressive. All my teammates feed me that positive energy. They want me to be aggressive. When Tyler and Jimmy get back, they are probably going to want me to go for 40 again. It’s one of those things [where] coaches let me off the leash and let me go.”

The 41-point outburst - which topped his previous career high of 32 in a playoff game against Boston - came a day after he attempted 13 shots on a 14-point night in a 20-point loss to Toronto in Tampa.

“I knew I had to be more aggressive than I was last game,” he said. “I take it on myself. I came out aggressive from the jump. Coach kept feeding me the ball.”

But, he added: “Forty don’t mean nothing unless you get the W. For real.”

Erik Spoelstra said Saturday’s offensive display was a natural evolution for the blossoming fourth-year star, especially with the Heat short-handed.

“All those other guys are out and he has to produce,” Spoelstra said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be a 40 point game. But he is going to be the focal point of a lot of our offense, whether that’s at the elbows, handling getting us into triggers, or as you saw in the fourth quarter, in the post, or just running pick and roll basketball.

“That was a big part of getting him in the flow. In the fourth quarter, he had some easy opportunities at the rim in pick and roll and he was able to kind of take over in the fourth quarter.”

Tidbits on Adebayo’s big night, some historical perspective, reaction and where his offensive game stands:

▪ Again showing how his game has grown, Adebayo went 4 for 5 in the basket area (less than 5 feet from the rim), 3 for 6 from 5 to 9 feet, 4 for 4 from 10 to 14 feet, 1 for 3 from 15 to 19 feet, 1 to 1 from 20 to 24 feet and 1 for 1 from 25 to 29 feet.

His night included 11 jump shots (in 15 attempts), two dunks and a bank shot. He hit his sixth three-pointer in 38 career attempts.

Goran Dragic assisted on four of his baskets, Kelly Olynyk on three.

Adebayo did most of his damage against De’Andre Jordan, hitting 5 of 6 shots against the Nets center. He was 6 for 8 with Jeff Green defending him and shot 1 for 1 against both James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

And, per Heat.com’s Couper Moorhead, Adebayo had seven isolation possessions, along with seven post-ups. Consider that Adebayo had a total of 25 isolation possessions in his first two seasons in the league.

“I’m stepping into a bigger role,” he said. “Everybody feeds off me.”

▪ Adebayo became the 11th player in Heat history to score 40 in a game and the second to do it at age 23 or younger, joining Dwyane Wade.

“Honestly I didn’t know I had 40 until the end of the game,” he said. “I felt like I was just out there hooping.”

▪ Per Heat.com, Adebayo is the 51st player since the league started recording turnovers in 1977 to score 40 or more points in a game in which he also had nine or more assists and one turnover or fewer. He’s just the second power rotation player to do it; Chris Webber (1995) was the other. Adebayo closed with nine assists, five rebounds and a turnover.

▪ He’s the first center with a game of at least 40 points, five rebounds and seven assists on 70 percent shooting since November 2017, and the fifth in the past 40 years.

“It was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves he’s been working on in the offseason,” Irving said. “I’ve known Bam since he was 15, 16. Just watching him grow since high school, watching him take over at this point for an undermanned Miami team was good to see. I’m nothing but a supporter of Bam. I’m glad he got to shoot well and we got the win.”

▪ Adebayo has now pushed his scoring average from 8.9 points per game two seasons ago to 15.9 last season to 20.3 this season. He’s 36th in the NBA in scoring and fifth among centers, behind only Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Christian Wood and Nic Vucovic.

Adebayo is now seventh among centers in field goal attempts per game (11.8), a narrow increase over last season’s 11.0.

Among centers this season, he’s eighth in field goal percentage at 61.7 and second in free throw percentage at 85.9, behind Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns, who has played in only four games.

“He’s our leader; we just follow him,” Duncan Robinson said.

Adebayo stands 13th among centers in rebounds at 8.9 per game and second in assists behind Jokic, at 5.5 per game.

▪ His shooting has improved in nearly every area of the court, per basketballreference.com.

Last season, he shot 71.9 percent within two feet of the basket. This season: 84.3.

Last season, he shot 45.9 percent from 3 to 9 feet. This season: 45.0.

Last season, he shot 40.9 percent from 10 to 15 feet. This season: 57.9 (22 for 38).

Last season, he shot 29 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line (18 for 72). This season: 47.8 (11 for 23).

And his free throw shooting has jumped from 69.1 to 85.9 percent.

What’s more, he has pushed his field goal percentage on jump shots from 37.3 last season to 53.5 this season.

“The best thing is that mid-range shot,” Dragic said of Adebayo’s offensive evolution. “He’s knocking down the shot regularly and it has really helped his game.”

▪ Among NBA players who have attempted at least 10 fourth-quarter shots, Adebayo ranks third in fourth quarter field goal percentage at 71.1 (27 for 38), behind only Jarrett Allen and Mitchell Robinson.

NEWS NOTE

The Heat will be without Butler, Avery Bradley, Herro, Meyers Leonard, Chris Silva and Maurice Harkless for Monday’s game against the Nets in Brooklyn; all have been ruled out.

Harkless left Saturday’s game in the second quarter with a left thigh contusion. KZ Okpala (left knee sprain) is questionable. Dragic (right foot) and Gabe Vincent (right knee) are probable.