1. First quarter haven’t been much of an issue for the HEAT this season. It’s been the quarter where their offense has been the best, and as such one of the quarters they have most consistently won. That made it a little surprising when the Wizards burst out of the gates with 38 points in that opening period as they shut down most of Miami’s most reliable sources of points – outside of Bam Adebayo.
Fortunately, Adebayo was just that good as he scored 16 in the first eight minutes and afforded the HEAT enough time to get their feet on the ground and gather up some traction. In the second quarter Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. made the interesting decision to alter his rotation from the previous two games between these teams, going with more of a smallball-adjacent unit – Daniel Gafford had not held up defensively in the earlier games, leading to plenty of second-half Taj Gibson minutes – when Kristaps Porzingis was on the bench. Miami quickly recognized the lack of rim protection on the floor, got the ball moving toward the rim and prevented Washington from extending their early lead past 12.
The rest of the way was nip and tuck as it seems just about every HEAT game is. Credit Haywood Highsmith, Jamal Cain and Dru Smith – back on a two-way deal – for playing impactful minutes despite their combined X points not jumping off the page. But in the end it comes down to points on the board, and the shots of the night came from Kyle Lowry who, on a possession that was stuck in the mud, nailed a three as he got fouled to put Miami up one with three minutes to go after Washington had led for most of the second half. Washington kept punching back from there with each team trading one-point leads, even as the HEAT did a fairly good job getting the ball out of Bradley Beal’s hands, but Adebayo landed the final blow finished off a roll – on a timely pass from Lowry – with his left hand to put Miami up three with 21 seconds left. Another game that could have gone either way in a season with an endless stream of them, but the HEAT’s veterans closed things out for a 110-107 victory as Miami took each of the consecutive home games against Wizards.
2. Little bit of everything from Adebayo (38 points on a regular-season high 22 shots, 12 rebounds) in this one as he scored in transition, off post-ups and with his usual diet of creation out of the pick-and-roll. It wasn’t that he was super aggressive – 10 shots with four free-throw attempts is well within a normal first half for him – he was just making everything. What was a little more unusual was that Adebayo kept pushing for his own offense the whole way through, at one point even putting down a power dribble and going right into the chest of Porzingis to draw a foul, and at others pushing in transition to try and hunt an early mismatch in the post – at one point he left Kuzma standing just about flatfooted as Adebayo went right past the defender for a layup.
If you looked at the shots Adebayo was getting the wouldn’t all be considered the most desirable – short, pullup jumpers through contact – put up against typical league averages. But in a single game, again without Jimmy Butler, league averages don’t matter. And we also don’t yet know how good those shots are for Adebayo himself, at least percentage wise. What we do know is that they’re right in his wheelhouse, and to see him going right at Washington’s interior length on a night the HEAT just needed some volume shot creation was something that hasn’t always come naturally for Miami’s center. He’s always going to be a great pick-and-roll finisher, and that’s ultimately what made his and the team’s night tonight, but it’s that level of volume playmaking that starts changing how opponents defend you. And sure enough, Adebayo saw some sporadic double teams in the second half.
3. Miami doesn’t win these last two games without Caleb Martin, and it’s time he starts getting recognized for how valuable he’s become. A year ago it was a revelation when Miami was shorthanded and Martin dropped 28 points, with six threes, on the Milwaukee Bucks. This year, albeit on a smaller scale since you aren’t going to have a career-high every night, those kind of performances from Martin are practically commonplace as he contributed 20 points on 11 shots, icing the game with a pair of free throws. He’s sustained his shooting gains from a year ago, doing exactly what he’s expected to do defensively – pressure the heck out of guards, guide the top of the zone, be a menace wherever possible – and whenever the team needs it he’s been more than willing to add some off-the-ball punch. Martin probably isn’t ever going to be the player running offense in the last five minutes of these tight games, but not many players ever are. What he is is a winning player who finds a way to make an impact no matter what lineups he’s playing in.