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From Struggles to Success: How Erik Spoelstra and Bam Adebayo are Dominating Defensively


Miami won six of their last eight games heading into the All-Star break.

It has been a major turnaround for the Miami Heat as entering the All-Star break, they have won six of their last eight games. Before then, they were on a dreadful seven-game losing streak, matching the longest skid since 2008, as head coach Erik Spoelstra and star Bam Adebayo spoke about the key difference the team has gone through.

The biggest aspect for Miami has always been their rough and tough defense that could get away winning with a low scoring game. However, during that losing streak, they were not playing to their strengths, identity, and to the much-touted “Heat Culture.”

After their seventh straight loss which happened on Jan. 29 to the Phoenix Suns, the team had a meeting and a film session where it was described as a “vulnerable” time where “things were said that needed to be said.” Since then, the Heat are second in the entire association in defensive rating only behind the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Erik Spoelstra talks about going through “harsh realities”

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra in front of the Kaseya Center.

Spoelstra has continuously said throughout the losing skid that there is a “breakthrough” on the horizon and once they play back to their strengths, the winning ways will come back. It definitely has as he said recently that a team has “to deal with your harsh realities” to get back to the point you succeed in according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel.

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“Sometimes,” Spoelstra said, “you have to go through that in a season, where you have to deal with your harsh realities. We were not defending the way we needed to and were losing games because of it. And after a certain point, you get sick and tired of being sick and tired of losing, and the pain of losing, and then you work toward solutions.”

There is no doubt that Miami has had a tumultuous season to say the least after making a miraculous playoff run to the NBA Finals where they lost in five games to the Denver Nuggets. In their sluggish start, they had to deal with constant injury issues to stars in their big three in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, and even some to their role players as well.

Spoelstra talks about the Heat’s “lowest-hanging fruit”

However, during that skid, they were fully healthy for the most part, so now it was the process of getting back to the basics. For Spoelstra, he called it “the lowest-hanging fruit” in Miami focusing their play style around their defense and being “intentional” with it which has been a term the coach has used all season.

“That was the lowest-hanging fruit for us,” Spoelstra said, “was to commit to defend and do tough things — do things with physicality, with force, with toughness and multiple efforts. And that’s now seven, eight games where we’ve done it and committing to it. And some of the games have been great offense. Some of them have been average. But we’ve been able to win games either way with that, and I think that’s the key takeaway from this.”

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Bam Adebayo and what their exceptional defense does for Miami

A lot of that prowess comes from Adebayo who is elite on that side of the ball as he is known for being able to defend any position that is thrown at him. So far on the season as a whole, he is averaging 20.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 51 percent from the field.

While the biggest problem of the team has been their poor defense dictating the offense during the seven-game losing streak, it has been the opposite this time around. Adebayo talks about how significant it is for the offense when they get defensive stops.

“Holding teams 10 under their average, 12 under their average, we’re doing so much on defense,”Adebayo said. “Obviously it makes it easier on our offense when we get stops.”

Despite the setbacks and recent victories, the Heat are 30-25 on the season which puts them seventh in the Eastern Conference. Their next game will be Friday, Feb. 23 as they will take on the New Orleans Pelicans.


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