The Keys to Kristaps Porzingis Containing Bam Adebayo and What to Watch for in Game 2

Apr 21, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) shoots the ball past
Apr 21, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) shoots the ball past / Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In his first playoff game as a Celtic, Kristaps Porzingis produced 18 points on 7/13 shooting, drilled 4/8 threes, grabbed four rebounds, and had two blocks.

He also got tasked with guarding Bam Adebayo at the other end of the court. With Jimmy Butler sidelined by an MCL injury, the Heat are forced to lean even further on their star center.

"They're gonna play through Bam as the number one option," noted Porzingis after Boston's 114-94 win in Sunday's series opener. "So, we have to do a good job as a team; just try to make it difficult for him. He's gonna do his thing and shoot those middies, and we know what type of player he is. So, yeah, he's gonna be involved in many situations. So, we just have to make sure we do the best job we can."

Adebayo finished with 24 points, leading all scorers, on 10/18 shooting. But most of his field goals required him to make well-contested shots inside the arc. It started on Miami's opening possession.

The Heat clear out to give the former Kentucky Wildcat ample room to go one-on-one without worrying about help coming from the left quadrant (from his point of view).

As much as he loves going from a between-the-legs dribble into a mid-range jump shot, he probably should've worked to get something better. The hosts will happily take this, and Porzingis does well to contest his attempt without fouling.

In the ensuing example of how the seven-foot-three center made life difficult for the three-time All-Star on Sunday, Porzingis is in drop coverage. Jrue Holiday plays the passing lane; Caleb Martin forces the ball through, but note where Adebayo gets it. He's about 12 feet from the rim, with no room to get closer off the catch. He makes a tough shot that Boston will live with as long as it doesn't foul.

Ignoring the following is also the play where Martin undercuts Jayson Tatum, Holiday effectively helps as Adebayo goes middle. That forces him to pick up his dribble. His contested mid-range jumper clangs off the front rim. Again, Porzingis challenges his shot without sending his counterpart to the free-throw line.

The Heat's highly skilled center can consistently push off a miss and get the shot below. But if the time and score allow the Celtics to live with this, they will. However, there can't be a steady diet of this.

And when Adebayo tried to attack downhill against the Latvian native in transition, it was a different story.

When it wasn't Porzingis guarding the former lottery pick, it was Al Horford. But the rules don't change. For instance, Boston still sagged off on his three-point tries, worked to make him take twos from as far as possible, and did its best to contest without fouling.

As for what Miami will likely tap into more in Game 2 on Wednesday, here's an illustration of the pace the visitors must play with in the half-court in Butler's absence.

They work the ball side-to-side and quickly keep it moving. Porzingis is in drop coverage. Holiday does a great job trailing Tyler Herro. Maybe the latter could capitalize and draw a foul, but the pocket pass is the correct read. Adebayo goes up for his shot before the contest and converts on one of the cleanest looks he got from inside the arc.

The Celtics did well limiting the impact of the Heat's best available player as a scorer, and he only took four free throws. Both sides know his scoring on contested twos can't be the defending Eastern Conference champions' best source of offense.

Adebayo also only had three assists. But he did have 11 screen assist points. That's the ideal way for him to maximize his teammates and give Miami the best chance at an upset.

Below, Duncan Robinson opts against a three with Sam Hauser trailing him. He gives it back to the Heat's star center and bolts to the basket. Derrick White rotates to tag Robinson. Delon Wright goes from screening for Kevin Love to getting a pitch from Adebayo with no one to help Horford. Trying to defend this many options at that pace presents quite a challenge.

The Heat went 12/37 (32.4%) on threes. Adebayo's screens helped Jaime Jaquez Jr. generate multiple baskets at the rim. But it's the former freeing up teammates to find their rhythm from beyond the arc that's vital for Miami.

If Boston's keeping instances like this to a minimum, it's hard to imagine the Celtics losing with Butler sidelined.

Further Reading

Celtics Bench Stars in Its Role in Game 1 Win vs. Heat: 'An Identity of Our Team'

Jayson Tatum Discusses First-Career Playoff Triple-Double: 'A Beautiful Game'

Celtics Protect the Parquet in Dominant Display in Game 1 vs. Heat

Kristaps Porzingis Makes Clear What Celtics' Mindset is Entering Playoffs

How do the Heat Adapt Without Jimmy Butler? Joe Mazzulla Weighs in

'I Knew It': Jaylen Brown Discusses Celtics Drawing Heat in Round 1

Brad Stevens Addresses Potential Extension with Derrick White

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.