No Jimmy Butler for the second half. Outscored 31-22 in the fourth quarter. Somehow, someway, the Heat lead the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-1, over the Celtics.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Miami got it done Saturday night at the TD Garden in Boston, 109-103, on the night that veteran point guard Kyle Lowry made his return to the lineup. Lowry played in his first game since Game 4 of the Semifinals against the 76ers, recovering from a hamstring injury.
Lowry’s presence was pivotal for the Heat, especially on the defensive end. Miami racked up 19 steals to Boston’s two, with Lowry leading the way with four. His most important came in the fourth quarter, with Boston threatening. With Miami clinging to a 101-94 lead with 42.5 seconds remaining, Lowry intercepted Grant Williams’ inbound pass and found Max Strus, who sank a three-pointer to effectively ice the game.
Lowry was big, but in the playoffs, you need your stars. And with Butler out for the remaining 24 minutes due to right knee inflammation, it was Bam Adebayo’s turn to lead. Lead he did, as he scored more points in Game 3 than he did in Games 1 and 2 combined.
After scoring just 16 points on 6-of-10 from the field in those games, Adebayo put up 31 on 15-of-22 shooting with 10 rebounds and six assists.
Perhaps unnoticed behind the loss was Jaylen Brown’s performance for the Celtics, who like Adebayo, had to step up. Jayson Tatum had one of his worst career nights in the playoffs, contributing just 10 points on 3-of-14 from the field in 41 minutes on the floor.
With Tatum struggling, Brown became option No. 1 and scored 40 points on 14-20 shooting with nine boards. Brown was predominantly key in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points, at one point cutting the lead to one with 2:40 remaining. Brown became the 1st player in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) to have a playoff game with 40 points on 100% 2-point FG shooting, per ESPN.
Too little, too late in the end, as the series stays in Boston for Game 4. All eyes will be on the status of Butler, who has been the focal point of Miami’s offense this postseason, averaging 29.8 PPG.
Game 4 will tip-off Monday at 8:30 p.m ET on ABC.
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