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Adebayo’s Shoulder Injury Opens The Door For Olynyk, Leonard To Shine

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Just hours prior to the start of Game 2, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo has been ruled out of Friday’s 9:00 p.m. contest with a shoulder injury, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports

Adebayo is expected to suit up for Game 3 but seems to be taking precautionary efforts to keep himself ready to go. It’ll be just his second missed game in the past two years.

Heading into a must-win scenario for the Heat, who trail the Los Angeles Lakers 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, the absence of Adebayo will simply be no excuse for Miami to compete for an NBA title.

While the starting lineup has yet to be announced, it’s likely that Kelly Olynyk or Meyers Leonard will get the notch for the first-time All-Star, who had the defensive task to guard Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Game 1.

At the same time, Derrick Jones Jr. and Solomon Hill will be part of Miami’s rotation, keeping fresh bodies around the rim in an effort to limit being outrebounded and giving up points in the paint.

And while the perfect candidate for that would’ve been Adebayo, the Heat’s next man up mentality won’t limit them from their capabilities.

Olynyk’s presence opens the door for Miami to space the floor offensively, as his perimeter shooting serves key against an L.A. club who lit up from deep in the series-opener. Olynyk shot just 1 of 5 for 4 points in Game 1, a disappointing look but definitely one he can bounce back from.

Miami’s use of Olynyk on the court without Adebayo has rarely been used, something that could benefit coach Erik Spoelstra early on as the Lakers adjust from Adebayo, who’s more lenient on attacking the basket, to Olynyk, who prefers shooting from beyond the arc.

The closest comparison to Miami’s ordinary lineup would be a 5-man group featuring Olynyk, Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson. That lineup has played 7 minutes together in 4 total games, producing an offensive rating of 106.3 and defensive rating of 86.7

On the defensive end, Olynyk was fairly impressive in Game 1. According to NBA Stats, the 6-foot-11 big-man earned a defensive efficiency rating of 80.6 in 18 minutes of action, the highest from any Heat player.

Overall, Miami outscored L.A. by 14 points when Olynyk was on the floor, regardless of his poor shooting. We’ll see if he can make that repeat Friday night.

As for Leonard, who started in all 49 games played prior to the NBA’s bubble setting, has raised eyebrows in terms of his ability to defend some of the better centers in the league. Regardless, Leonard is an option for Miami’s pick and roll plays intended for Duncan Robinson. His vulnerability to shoot from deep also helps Spoelstra and the Heat to spread out.

Lastly, Leonard, who’s listed at 7-foot, 260 lbs, is a taller and heavier player than that of Olynyk, an advantage for Miami to overcome their box out woes, one that was critical to their 98-116 loss Wednesday.

He’ll be needed tonight to provide a willingness to rebound, set screens, limit his turnovers and try to include the three-point to his arsenal once again.

It’s all about stepping up when need be.

Michael Yero covers all of South Florida’s major pro teams, along with high school sports for 305 Sports. He also covers sports for Immaculata-La Salle High School’s student newspaper, the Royal Courier.

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