Miami – The Knicks have taken down most of the enemies in the paint. Now they are struggling, and center Bam Adebayo dominates them.
Miami heads into the second round of the fourth on Monday with a 2-1 lead in the series. And while Jimmy Butler got all the flowers for his comeback Saturday from injury, Adebayo’s all-around brilliance flew under the radar — though not between the Knicks, who outplayed him, or the Heat, who led him to victory.
“The thing that’s probably disappointing — not for our locker room or anything — is that the average eye probably doesn’t realize how dominant Bam’s game is. [Saturday] “To influence the win,” said coach Erik Spoelstra. “He was in control. The shame is that in today’s day and age, people only see it as dominant if you score 40 or more points or have some kind of flashy stat line.
“His mark was all over that win, and there’s a way he does Bam with his effort, his intensity, that competitive spirit that inspires other guys to do it. You’ve seen all the other guys contribute to these extra efforts, and it’s because when you see one of your best players do it, your two best guys, Bam and Jimmy, you want to join the party. Pam has that kind of ability to inspire.”
Adebayo bounced back from a poor performance in Game 2 by pouring in a team-high 17 points, 12 rebounds and a block in a 105-86 win at Miami on Saturday.
What was most impressive was what he did in terms of his defense and toughness.
“It was more physical,” said Isaiah Hartenstein.
Adebayo was guarding the Knicks’ perimeter linebackers, working his way up with the middle. Hartenstein and rookie Mitchell Robinson combined for only two points and eight boards, with Robinson clocking just 14:13. Once pulled for his small-ball lineup, Adebayo was equally effective in slowing Julius Randle down to 4 of 15 shooting.
After struggling in Miami’s Game 2 loss at the Park, Adebayo — who has dealt with a nagging hamstring problem — struggled with rebounding in a big way.
“It’s what great players do,” Spoelstra said. “The thing is, Bam is a young player, but he has playoff experience like no one else in this league. He’s contributed to so many playoff wins… There probably aren’t many 26-year-olds who have as many victories as there are in the playoffs.
“Great players, it takes time to see how you are going to collect a bunch of wins and do things especially in the playoffs. Usually, this means that you have to do a bunch of things that you wouldn’t normally want to do. All those extra efforts and tackles and defensive coverage and toughness and all that stuff, Pam does all that stuff.”
Kyle Lowry added: “I knew Pam would come out, he said it would be better and that’s what it is. … He’s a man who always sticks to what he says. It’s putting a lot on the line right now. He plays in everything. I think it’s been great, period, this whole qualifier.”