Game Breakdown #8: Bam in Delay Actions, Memphis’ Adjustment & Pull-ups

Insightlast month10 min readJohn Jablonka

I almost thought they were going to blow it. I was so ready to spoil the score and see that they went ahead and won this game convincingly but instead, this was another close game, of course.

But despite the ending, this was one of the better games from the Heat that I’ve seen on both ends. Many stretches were also one of the worst I’ve seen, but I’d say the positives outweighed the negatives.

You had Bam Adebayo give you 30 points on 8-for-15 shooting and going 14-16 from the line.

You had the best Kyle Lowry game in a while. This is exactly the Lowry that this team needs so badly. They need him to be this aggressive in not only taking the shots but simply looking to score. That is why he was a team-high plus 20, the second-leading scorer, and almost gave you a triple-double.

Duncan Robinson, Jaime Jaquez Jr, and Haywood Highsmith continue to impress me.

But let’s start with the first point.

Here are some usage stats:

  • Jimmy Butler: 18.3%
  • Tyler Herro: 26.3%(only 8 minutes)
  • Kyle Lowry: 19.3%
  • Jaren Jackson Jr: 27.4%
  • Desmond Bane: 22.1%
  • Marcus Smart: 24.7%
  • Santi Aldama: 24.6%

And then there was Adebayo with 31.0%. That’s a significant usage and it stands out even more when comparing it to everyone else in this game.

However, I don’t think that there was anything wrong with that. There were a few of really good possessions from him attacking the rim and drawing fouls. That was elite stuff and he was doing a lot of the things that he needed to do.

There were a couple of his usual poor isolation or settling quickly for jumpers, but that didn’t seem to be a big issue in this game.

There were also many dead possessions where the offense became stagnant and he ended up being the bailout guy in the end to take a shot, which isn’t on him.

But it was also how he was being defended. The Heat like to have Adebayo at the top of the 3-point line in Delay actions. They did this a lot in this game with him near the free-throw line too. Memphis, however, defended that in an interesting way.

So, let’s go through some of those possessions.

This was the first instance I saw. Adebayo at the top of the key in Delay action. Notice where Jackson is. He’s all the way in the paint. That’s the same with three other defenders, they all have a foot in the paint. This will bog down the offense. With the big(Biyombo or Jackson Jr) inside the paint sags off, which takes away the paint for the cutters(similar to what the Los Angeles Lakers did with Anthony Davis). With good defense against those screens, there are no back cuts available or space to go inside. Everything is cramped.

With no cuts, they try to go to a dribble hand-off with Robinson. Solid defense from Bane on the first screen, then Jackson steps up to take the pull up and ends up switching.

This continued to happen and it was one of the reasons why this didn’t work with Thomas Bryant.

In the second half, though, the Heat adjusted by having Adebayo be the hub inside the arc. I don’t know if that would still be a Delay action, but the idea was the same with him being the hub around the free throw line. But that didn’t solve much.

He gets the ball at the top of the key, but look where Bismack Biyombo is. He’s sitting in the paint. He’s closer to the rim than the free-throw line. There was no need for Adebayo to wait for any actions, he had to go just go for that shot here. That’s a good adjustment to have it lower so he can easily get into that shot, but that doesn’t continue as well.

He gets the ball around the elbow here. Bane and Jackson are ready to help on that side. The cutters are negated because everyone is too close. Adebayo tries to go for the fake but gets nowhere and it ends up being a turnover.

Here’s another instance where the shot was way too open for him. But you can also see the initial action. Robinson tries to backcut but that has both Smart and Biyombo in the paint taking that away. Usually, that’s likely a dime from Lowry. The defense helped off, Lowry recognised that to quickly get it to Adebayo for a pull-up.

In these four next plays, it’s all very similar

In the first clip, they go to this exact thing. Everything happens the same with Biyombo sagging off to take away the cutters. As soon as he drops back deeper to do so, that’s when Adebayo immediately looks to pull up. He was open and made that shot, but I’m not sure how much I love that to be the offense so quickly.

In the second clip, the same thing to start the fourth out of the inbound. Jackson was sagging off and Adebayo immediately went for the pull-up. That’s a win for the defense, especially when Jackson is close enough to contest the shot. That’s a long mid-range pull-up in someone’s face. If that’s a team’s offense, let them do it.

This continued to be a thing in the third clip. And I think this was the point where something else had to happen. They couldn’t just continue to go into Delay actions with him because it encourages that shot. Here, he’s immediately looking for that twice.

And in the last clip, this was the final possession. He’s again looking to shoot that. Everyone knows it because the cuts will be taken away. And even though he made it, that’s again a shot you can live with.

I wasn’t a fan of continuing to go that same setup when everything about the possession was the same. It wasn’t efficient. It didn’t get them easy looks and they just did the same thing. So, this was an issue with the setup but it was understandable why Adebayo continued to take those pull-ups.

But on that note. In all of those possessions, he’s looking to score. And that has been my thing with Adebayo. This role as a scorer is still a new thing and that’s why there’s no good blend of being a passer and a scorer at the same time.

It’s as if there’s a switch to be made beforehand with this mentality and processing. And I think that’s the issue here. It’s with him being able to go score but at the same being able to recognize and survey the floor to look for passes.

Take these two plays:

In the first play, he quickly attacked in semi-transition. He got to the paint, had all of the defense around him looking at him and he went for the shot. But you can see Lowry lifting too and I don’t think Adebayo realised that or was going to realise that.

In the second clip, this might be nitpicky but it still illustrates that issue. He makes a good jump stop at the rim and has four defenders inside but again, I don’t think he even knows that he has two passes open.

Here, he makes a pass:

Goes to work in the post but even looking at him here, it does feel like he already had the intention to pass beforehand. Still drew the defense on the fake, but it does feel pre-determined.

So, looking at it like this, it’s clear why the usage was as high as it was(also a few of those free throw trips were non-shooting fouls) and it was a pretty solid game from him all around.

Observations that Caught my Eye + Tidbits

Let’s start with the good.

Robinson has impressed so, so much. He is looking completely different to what we saw last year and in each game, he’s showing more. I never would’ve thought that he was going to be providing so much rim pressure:

And the thing is, it wasn’t just created for him. This wasn’t just beating closeouts. He’s now self-creating drives in isolation or in pick-and-rolls. He’s doing it all. He’s continuing to cut well. But he’s giving rim pressure beyond being the one making the shot, he’s also making reads on kickouts.

Another player who impressed me(probably the most) is Jaime Jaquez Jr. He really is a vet in a 23-year-old body.

He just does everything well on offense. He has a great feel for cutting. He can get to the rim off a PnR. He can punish mismatches in the post by drawing defenses and even punishing doubles by making skip passes. That’s not normal for a rookie.

I will never not enjoy Haywood Highsmith playing defense. Never. That play where he single-handedly saved the possession twice was something else.

Making a note of this from this game with Butler running the show with the bench units. I never want to see this lineup with Butler again. No spacing, no ball handling, no nothing. And look at how these possessions are negated. Extra nail help off Josh Richardson. Packed paint. Early rotations. That’s just making life hell for Butler to do something.

Also, wasn’t impressed with their defense in the third quarter. Not sure where the effort went to start the half.

Finally, some stats:

  • Heat had a 122.3 offense and a +18.3 net rating with Adebayo on
  • That dropped to 54.2 and -41.5 without him
  • The Heat’s pace with both Adebayo and Butler was 13.7.INSANELY FAST
  • Robinson had 9 drives
  • Butler, Jaquez, and Lowry all had 3 deflections