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  • VAUGHT: Adebayo habits, instinct brought historic NBA Block

    By LARRY VAUGHT

    It’s already being compared to the best all-time defensive plays in NBA history. Kentucky Radio Network play-by-play voice Tom Leach said he had to think back to a 1977 UK exhibition win over Russia when James Lee came out of nowhere to block a dunk by a 7-4 Russian to find a similar play.

    That’s how good former UK standout Bam Adebayo’s block of Boston’s Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt in the final seconds of overtime that secured Miami’s playoff win Tuesday night was.

    “Bam is a great player. Really carved out a space for himself in this league. Bam is set up for how the league is moving forward: big, athletic, can do multiple things. I just tip my cap to the play he made. That's it,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

    What else can you say? It was that good.

    Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game that Adebayo’s “habits and instincts” are exceptional.

    “That can be a poster dunk and a lot of people won't be willing or aren't willing to make that play and put themselves out there. Jayson Tatum, get into the launching pad, and he just made a big-time save for us,” the Miami coach said. “I mean, Tatum did have an angle, and it looked like he had an open lane to the rim and sometimes when you have, you know, great competition like this, you just have to make plays that you can't even really explain, and that was Bam tonight.

    “He wasn't in like a great offensive rhythm. They are so good defensively but he just found a way just to continue to stay with it and put his fingerprints on this game somehow, some way.”

    He might have put his fingerprint into history with a play that won’t soon be forgotten.

    “I mean, you just said it. He made a great play. He made a good play. Can't do nothing about it,” Tatum, a one-time UK recruit who went to Duke, admitted after the game.

    Adebayo had 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 43 minutes. He has now played in 223 NBA games and is averaging 10.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 55 percent from the field. Better yet, he just keeps getting better.

    Adebayo downplayed how good his play was, which was not surprising since he is not prone to brag on himself.

    “I had to make a play. It's the playoffs, and I made a great play,” he said. “When he took his two steps and tried to dunk it. I mean, but you know, it was just, I knew my teammates have my back and that's -- we're kind of on a string. So when I go, somebody else got to take my man and we just rotate from there.
    “But I would rather us not being in that position at the end of the game, and you know, dictate that at five seconds. But like I said, great block, and it was a great win and we're up 1-0 but we got three more to get.”

    Former NBA great Magic Johnson tweeted after the game it was the best defensive play he had ever seen in a playoff game. Again, EVER SEEN.

    “It's just you get on that big stage, you just got to make big plays and I made a big play. Coming from Magic, that's a great comment from him, and you just have got to keep getting better throughout the playoffs,” Adebayo said.* At the end of the day, man, you just got to make a play. I did that. It hard to explain because it happened so fast for me. Y'all want answers from me? Instincts, I guess.
    Adebayo is just glad Miami is up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference finals and could rest before trying to win game two.

    “This is one of those things, it doesn't hit you until the game's over. So you know, when it happened, I was looking at the clock, like we still got time, like let's get ahead and close it out. We did that. After that, celebrated and we're focused on the next game now,” he said.

    Adebayo, always known for his defense and rebounding, said the block was a confidence-builder for him to make a “great, great game-winning block” for his team.

    “It gives you more confidence to just keep trying to block everything. That's pretty much the confidence right there, and then, you know, you get a block like that, and it feeds energy into your team,” the former UK star said. “I came into the league as a defender and an energy guy. Just having that moment and kind of -- kind of flashed back to my rookie year where all I did was play defense and just provide energy.”