BOSTON (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored 31 points with 10 rebounds for the Miami Heat, which blew a 25-point first-half lead and lost Jimmy Butler to a knee injury, but continued to beat the Boston Celtics 109-103 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night.
Boston never led in the game, but erased almost the entire 62-37 deficit and came within a point, 93-92, with 2:40 left on a 3-pointer from Jaylen Brown, who finished with 40 dots.
Max Strus responded with a 3, then Adebayo bounced off defender Al Horford and made a basket at the clock buzzer to give Miami a six-point cushion they held to take a 2-1 lead in the best of the seven series.
Game 4 is Monday night in Boston.
In a game that saw Boston’s Butler and Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart leave with injuries – although both Celtics returned – Kyle Lowry returned from a four-game absence and scored 11 with six assists for the Heat . PJ Tucker — like Lowry a playing time decision — scored 17 for the Heat.
Horford scored 20 points with 14 rebounds and Smart scored 16. Tatum had 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting; he’s also had six turnovers and Brown has committed seven of Boston’s 24 turnovers — a playoff high in 2022.
After losing Game 2 at home by 25 points to cede home-court advantage to the Celtics, the Heat opened up a 62-37 lead with less than three minutes left in the second quarter, then saw Boston score the last 10 half-time points to scratch his return to the game.
Things got worse for the Heat when they announced at halftime that Butler, who scored 41 in Game 1 of the series, would not return with an inflamed right knee.
Miami still led 15, 87-72, after three, and made it a 17-point game on Adebayo’s field goal to start the fourth. But the Celtics missed the next nine points to find themselves in single digits for the first time since the opening three minutes of the game. Trailing 93-80, the Celtics scored 12 straight points — 10 by Brown — to make it a one-point game with 2:40 to go.
IN AND OUT
Boston opened the second with a field goal to make it a 13-point game, but the building went quiet when Defensive Player of the Year Smart fell into a collision with Lowry as he searched for a stray ball and needed help with the locker room.
Smart returned five minutes later to a huge cheer when the scoreboard showed him walking down the tunnel towards the pitch. He came back with seven minutes left in the third and hit a 3-pointer that made it a 10-point game, 72-62, and forced the Heat to call timeout.
The situation repeated itself when Tatum fell into obvious pain five minutes from the end of the fourth. He went straight to the locker room, clutching his right side, but also returned to the cheers of the crowd.
Lowry has missed eight of the Heat’s previous 10 games with right hamstring strain, last playing in Game 4 of Miami’s second-round series with Philadelphia. Tucker had pain in his left knee but was also part of the starting lineup.
The Celtics played without center Robert Williams III, who missed three second-round games against Milwaukee with pain and a bruised bone in his surgically repaired left knee. Daniel Theis started in his place. Derrick White returned after missing Game 2 to be at the birth of his first child.
The Celtics’ 24 turnovers led to 33 points in Miami. The Heat had nine turnovers which led to nine Celtics points. … Miami’s bench outscored Boston’s 26-16. … The Heat shot 64% in the first quarter, but finished 46.7%. … Penn State coach and former Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry and Providence College coach Ed Cooley were both in attendance.
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