Dwyane Wade said after his first game back with the Heat that one of the easiest things of getting acclimated with this year’s Miami team is playing with Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo.
“Those two guys are a force to be reckoned with and it’s going to make a lot of our jobs easier to understand how they utilize them,” Wade said. “So I’m excited about that and looking to see how to help other guys understand how to utilize them, because they’re going to open everything up for both of us.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra chose to utilize both Whiteside and Adebayo together in Friday’s win over the Bucks.
And the strategy proved effective in helping the Heat snap a season-worst five-game losing streak.
The pair was on the court together for 10 minutes and scored a combined 11 points during that stretch against Milwaukee, shooting a combined 5 of 18 from the field. The intriguing part was the rebounding impact the two made as the Heat outrebounded the Bucks 51-37 overall. For the game, Whiteside and Adebayo combined for 27 points and 26 rebounds although their combined plus/minus rating was minus-13. Adebayo played 32 minutes and 22 seconds and Whiteside played 25 minutes and 35 seconds.
“It was great, man,” Whiteside said. “It was a couple of times we were just playing volleyball with each other on the rebounds. It’s a lot different when he’s out there. It’s really athletic.”
The Heat used the pairing with Kelly Olynyk sidelined the past two games with a strained left shoulder. Olynyk’s status is still uncertain for Tuesday’s game against Toronto, but the Heat may have found an additional option it can implement even after he returns.
Olynyk has shared more court time with Adebayo this season with Whiteside missing 19 games due to injury and illness. Adebayo and Olynyk are a combined plus-63 in 397 minutes together while Whiteside and Olynyk are minus-28 in 154 minutes.
Whiteside and Adebayo have been on the court together in games for 46 minutes this season and the Heat is 7-1 in games where this has happened. During that time, they have combined for 78 points, 51 rebounds and 11 blocks.
Spoelstra said the Heat was able to run some offense through Adebayo during stretches in the third and fourth quarters against the Bucks.
“I like those minutes,” Spoelstra said after the game. “We’ve done it before against this team. They were both effective. Hassan was more effective in the first half. Bam was terrific in the second half on both ends of the court.”
Adebayo left Whiteside and everyone else in the arena in awe including his coach when he snared a blocked shot and grabbed the ball in one motion starting a run to the other end of the court.
“I ain’t never seen,” Whiteside said. “He surprised himself. I told him you look like me, man. I told him I messed his highlight up on the other end, but it was a spectacular catch block. I give it an A-plus.”
Adebayo said he had only done that once in college while playing at the University of Kentucky.
“Yeah, I was in the moment,” Adebayo said. “I was like ‘Oh snap.’ I thought he was going to call goaltending, but when he didn’t I was like ‘OK. Play on.’”
Having both players on the court at the same time was a perfect counter to the tall Bucks frontcourt as the Heat played excellent overall defense in the game and for the first three quarters limited Giannis Antetokounmpo to only eight points.
Spoelstra may elect to use the two-man combination again facing the Raptors tall frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas especially if Olynyk is out again.
Adebayo sounded like he was all for it.
“I love playing with H [Whiteside],” Adebayo said. “Two shot blockers, two athletic bigs, and we both can facilitate,” Adebayo said. “I try to just bring out the energy in H. Any time he does something, I’m always the first one to slap his hand and keep him motivated because sometimes he can get down on himself when he messes up. But it’s time to make plays and he’s playing well for us.”