First to the Floor: Bam Adebayo solves the Robert Williams problem
On this episode of First to the Floor, Ben, Jake, and I break down the strange Miami game and the disappointing loss to the upstart Orlando Magic. Both the Heat and the Celtics were running out players so obscure one guy played college in West Virginia, and not at WVU. Probably the most compelling non-Jayson Tatum/last possession storyline was the battle of the young centers. In one corner you have a man named after an onomatopoeia, and in the other corner, you have the literal Lord of Time. I know who I like in that fight, and it’s not the guy whose name is a sound.
The most recent matchup between these two came in the playoffs, and well, Rob had a pretty big impact on Bam’s numbers.
Looking forward to the Rob/Bam matchup tonight. Rob owned Bam in the ECF.
Bam’s stats when Rob played more than 15 minutes (5 games):
Bam’s stats when Rob either sat or played less than 15 minutes (2 games):
— Jake Issenberg (@jakeissenberg) January 24, 2023
In the two games Rob wasn’t able to play a full minute load, Bam was an All-Star. In the games Rob was able to, he was Bam-al Magloire (technically made an All-Star team). The difficulty in defending Bam is similar to the problem Tatum presents for wings. You put a bigger guy on him, he’s going to be too quick. You put a smaller guy on him, he’s going to be too big. Well, Rob is big and very quick. He’s also a much more dynamic vertical athlete, which allows him to contest those annoying Bam fadeaways he does so much.
Well, last night, Bam finally got the better of Rob. According to NBA.com’s matchup data, Rob defended Bam for 7 minutes and 14 seconds. During that time, Bam was 4-7 from the floor and 4/4 from the line, good for 12 of his 30 points. From the eye test, I would bet 2 or 3 of those made field goals were in the critical 4th quarter as the game slipped out of the C’s hands.
Mazzulla had a clear gameplan against Adebayo: stay home, and force him to create in isolation. Bam, and Miami as a whole, is most dangerous when he can pick out cutters and open shooters, that come open when teams double him. By staying home, you limit those easy baskets, and force Bam to create off the bounce. With Rob on him, he’s unable to get himself all the way to the rim and has to settle for mid-range jumpers or awkward floaters. That has historically been a successful tactic against him, and I think it will be in the future, but last night it wasn’t. Bam was 6-11 from 5-14 feet, many of those makes at critical junctures.
With that said, I’d be hesitant to take too much away from this game, for either team. The Celtics missing what is effectively a playoff caliber starting lineup, and the Heat missing what is effectively the only reason they can make the playoffs, doesn’t provide a ton of useful data. What last night did show us is that Bam may have solved Rob Williams for one game, but I’d bet he couldn’t do it four times out of seven.
I hope you enjoy this episode despite the two disappointing losses. It certainly made me feel better recording it, so hopefully listening is a bit cathartic. Please subscribe to the CelticsBlog podcast feed and the First to the Floor YouTube (where we just hit 1k subs, thank you everyone!!!!). As always, thanks for listening!