Heat get what they want on final defensive play as Bam Adebayo steps up to help secure win over Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle, drives against Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo during the Heat’s victory in Los Angeles on Friday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

LOS ANGELES – This is what the Heat had hoped. If the final game of their road trip was going to be decided by one play, they wanted it to be on their defensive end.

After all, what better way to atone for giving away Wednesday’s game in Sacramento.

“We thought it was very fitting that this road trip (ended) on a defensive stop at the end,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s all we talked about for the last 48 hours. … We’re going to have to try to win this with our defense, that hopefully we would be in a similar situation as we were in Sacramento but be able to get the appropriate stop to get the win.”

The Heat grabbed the lead with 15.2 seconds to play on a floater by Goran Dragic. The Lakers called time out and set up a play.

Isaiah Thomas, who used to kill the Heat when he was in Boston, took the inbounds pass with 7.5 seconds remaining. With Justise Winslow defending he went to his left. But when he stepped back from about 14 feet from the basket Winslow received help from 6-foot-10 Bam Adebayo.

Thomas released the fade away shot and it bounced off the rim preserving Miami’s 92-91 victory.

Adebayo’s outstretched hand may have been the difference, something he was late doing on De’Aaron Fox’s shot at the buzzer in Sacramento that sent the game into overtime where the Kings took control.

“The previous game, (it was) the same situation,” Adebayo said. “They went left and coach said ‘You’ve got to jump.’ So I was like ‘Man, just jump and live with the result.’ I contested and it turned out to be our ball. I’m glad it did. I’m glad he told me that.”

Or, as Dragic put it: “Finally tonight the basketball Gods were on our side.”

The play capped an energetic, productive game for the Heat’s rookie center. Adebayo started for the fourth straight game in place of Hassan Whiteside, who is nursing a left hip flexor, and struggled in the previous two, losses at Portland and against the Kings.

Adebayo played a season-high 34:44 and contributed 11 points and eight rebounds while making half of his 10 shots. He played the entire third quarter and about four minutes into the fourth quarter before he raised his hand for a sub.

Spoelstra summoned Rodney McGruder and when Adebayo passed his coach, Spoelstra emphatically slapped his hand and then pounded Adebayo’s chest.

“He was ferocious, on both ends,” Spoelstra said. “So we played him the whole 12 minutes straight (in the third quarter). We just couldn’t get him out of the game. That’s what you want to do with your minutes. It’s not going to guarantee that the coaching staff will keep you in there, but you want to make the coaching staff have to make tough decisions.”

Adebayo re-entered with 3:30 remaining as Spoelstra went big playing him alongside the 7-foot Kelly Olynyk.

“I think it makes it tough on guys on the offensive end when you line up like that,” Olynyk said. “We just went out to play big, just covered for each other, scrambled and did whatever it takes.”

Adebayo then had the rebound off a Julius Randle miss with 23.4 seconds remaining that led to Dragic’s game-winning basket before the big assist on the defensive stop that led to the Heat sealing the win.

“For a young guy like that he has a ton of great habits,” James Johnson said. “You put that with his work ethic and the sky’s the limit.”

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