Bam Adebayo was getting blasted after Game 3 for allowing Joel Embiid to dominate while wearing a mask in his return from a broken orbital bone. So, it’s only fair to give the Miami Heat center his due for a defensive gem against the MVP candidate in Game 5.
Granted, it wasn’t only Adebayo pulling the rug from under Embiid. The Heat swarmed the 7-footer in the paint and trapped him with multiple defenders every time he touched the ball. It was clear that Erik Spoelstra wasn’t going to let Embiid beat his team. Still, Adebayo applied the perfect amount of Kryptonite.
Prior to Game 6 in Philadelphia, Spoelstra talked about the Adebayo vs. Embiid matchup while reminding everyone that there is no ill will there or personal grudge. No one’s trying to prove anything. It’s just two competitors balling out.
“It’s a deep respect, it’s a deep respect for the competition level, for the talent level, and for how well coached they are,” Spoelstra told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve had some tough games with them [the Sixers] during the season and Bam is just putting his fingerprints on helping us win in whatever fashion that may be.
“It might be defensively one possession. It might be a hustle play. It might be in the gap on another play. It might be playmaking at the other end. It might be finishing plays. He has a lot of responsibilities for us, and he’s certainly not getting caught up in a 1-on-1 narrative about it. He’s trying to help us win.”
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Philadelphia Standout Coaching Up Adebayo
How about this for irony? One of the guys credited for Adebayo’s defensive development is a Philadelphia native. Mailk Allen – the pride of Medford, New Jersey and Villanova University – is an assistant coach for the Heat and (somewhat begrudgingly) holds the title of “big man coach” for them.
That means he is the one drilling Adebayo in the gym for long hours. Spoelstra talked about Allen’s influence on the center position, pointing out that he follows a long line of impressive Heat assistants with experience mentoring big men.
“Really strong talented personalities over the years we’ve had Keith Askins, Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard and now Mailk Allen,” Spoelstra said prior to Game 6. “I just think Malik is one of the best teachers in this game. He has a great way of communicating, everything is clear and makes sense and he’s patient, but he also knows to drive guys to a higher level. He’s always available, I think that’s how you build relationships, is by always being there and knowing when to encourage and when to push.”
Doc Rivers Updates Embiid’s Health for Game 6
Joel Embiid is dealing with a myriad of injuries heading into Game 6, including a broken face, a sprained right thumb, and (maybe?) a bad back. He’s far from the dominant force from the regular season. It doesn’t matter. According to Doc Rivers, Embiid will suit up and give the Sixers everything he has.
“We’re all good and Joel’s good, as good as he can be with all the stuff that’s going on with him,” Rivers said. “He’s able to play. He’s going to give us what he can give us and we’re thankful for that.”
Fair enough. When Rivers was asked what his pre-game message was to the team, he kept it simple.
“Just go out and play,” Rivers said. “Play your game. Empty it out on the floor. No hero basketball, just be stars in your roles and play, that’s all you can do.”