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Heat survives both Jimmy Butler loss and huge lead, holds Celtics 109-103 to 2-1 series lead – The Denver Post

It was a game that would leave the Miami Heat at a loss regardless of the outcome, with Jimmy Butler’s night over at halftime due to knee inflammation.

But that’s also where the Heat drew the line, riding center Bam Adebayo’s aggression to a heartbreaking 109-103 victory Saturday night over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden and a 2-1 lead in the best of the seven Eastern Conference finals. .

“It got gnarly out there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of a wild one-game swing.

On the rare night the Heat started full, with point guard Kyle Lowry back from hamstring strain and forward PJ Tucker from a knee issue, the Heat quickly had to find a way to finish in the absence of its leader.

Adebayo therefore became their leading scorer, closing with 31 points and 10 rebounds, after scoring a total of 16 in the first two games of the series, including a late key jumper.

“He did his version of what Jimmy does in terms of doing what’s necessary for the game,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo.

With Lowry providing stability in his return and Tucker’s aggression, the Heat made a variety of complementary contributions at both ends, including a late key 3-pointer Max Strus, on the way to regaining home-court advantage. .

“There’s just adversity on both sides, constantly, and the competition is so intense that it creates that adversity,” said Spoelstra, Heat guard Tyler Herro ending the game with a quad injury as a result. of a miserable 4- of -15 night from the domain.

Strus added 16 points for the Heat, Lowry closing with 11 points and six assists, and Tucker 17 points and seven rebounds.

“We just have guys grinding, gutting,” Spoelstra said. “And that’s what the playoffs are for.”

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 40 points, on a night teammate Jayson Tatum shot 3 of 14.

The Heat closed with 19 interceptions, one shy of the NBA playoff record, as part of the Celtics’ 24 turnovers. That fueled a 33-9 point advantage on turnovers.

“We wanted to show that we’re here and we’re going to keep fighting,” Strus said.

The series continues with Game 4 on Monday at 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden.

Five degrees of heat from Saturday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 39-18 at the end of the opener, their highest score for any quarter this postseason, pushing that lead to 26 in the second period, before taking a 62-47 lead. at intermission.

The Celtics closed within nine in the third, but the Heat’s advantage was again 15 in the fourth quarter, at 87-72.

And then, suddenly, a 20-4 run from the Celtics cut the Heat’s lead to 93-92 with 2:40 to go.

But that’s when Strus stepped up a 3-pointer with 2:16 left to put the Heat up 96-92, with Adebayo following with a 17-foot jumper with 1:21 left.

Further doubt ended when Lowry snuck in to steal an inbound Celtics pass and feed Strus for a layup that made it 103-94 with 42.5 seconds remaining, allowing the Heat to resist a Brown 3-point fire.

Of his crucial 3-pointer, Strus said, “We just needed a field goal. . . . In the timeout, Kyle said, “Let’s do a pindown for Max.” “

2. Always something: The rare night the Heat started in full took a turn for the worse when Butler couldn’t come out for the start of the second half due to recurring knee inflammation.

That had Victor Oladipo, who didn’t play in the first half, with the starters at the open of the third period providing several key defensive sequences.

Butler’s night ended with eight points, three rebounds and two assists in 7:30 p.m.

“He didn’t have his normal explosive brilliance,” Spoelstra said of his first-half impression of Butler, before the decision was made by the coaching staff at half-time to shut him down .

Butler previously missed the Heat’s Game 5 Finals victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the first round due to inflammation in his right knee.

3. Message received: During the morning shootout, Spoelstra said of Adebayo: “We want him to be more involved.”

Message received.

Adebayo opened 5 of 6 from the field, scoring his 10th point after 5:37 of play.

Adebayo’s 12th point moved him past Tim Hardaway for 10th on the all-time playoff list and he had up to 16 points at halftime. He had 23 points heading into fourth.

“He really is the heart and soul of the band,” Spoelstra said. “Tonight we needed the score.”

The 31 points were one of his playoff career highs, when he scored 32 in Game 6 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics.

“His versatility opens up everything for everyone,” Tucker said. “It was good to see him go early.”

Adebayo said Thursday’s 25-point home loss provided all the motivation needed.

“In the previous match, they beat us like we stole something,” Adebayo said. “That should wake anyone up.”

Adebayo’s 22 shots was a career high for any game.

“He put his head down,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said, “we didn’t match him.”

4. Low back: Lowry was back after missing eight of the previous 10 games with a strained left hamstring, reestablishing his leadership with the first unit.

Aware of the illness, he entered the locker room tunnel during his time out.

“It’s hard trying to find a rhythm, just having the opportunity to be out there with my guys is always fun,” said Lowry, who played 29 minutes. “I feel good. I’m over there playing.

Lowry, 36, previously attempted a hamstring comeback in the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers after a four-game absence, only to miss four more games.

Spoelstra pointed out that the setback against the 76ers was not a setback in terms of rehabilitating Lowry.

“He didn’t get injured again,” Spoelstra said. “I think it was important, so he was still able to heal. If he had hurt him again, I think he would have been out a lot longer. He just still felt it, so we played it safe and took more time.

With Lowry back but on minutes watch, Gabe Vincent, who had started in his place, was first on the bench for the Heat, splitting the 24 minutes of the first half evenly with Lowry.

5. Tucker too: Also back was Tucker, who injured his left knee in Thursday night’s Game 2 loss to the point that there were initial thoughts of requiring an MRI.

Tucker walked away from Thursday night’s loss at FTX Arena after first hurting his knee in the first half and aggravating it in the third quarter.

He then had eight points and four rebounds in the first half on Saturday night.

“I told the guys tonight I didn’t know what I had,” Tucker said, “but I was going to give them everything I had.”

Spoelstra paused when asked what it would take to keep 37-year-old Tucker out.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think all of us are a bit on eggshells with him. You can’t ask him how he’s doing. I can’t ask a coach, because if he sees me talking to a coach, he barks at me and yells at me if I talk to the coaches. I have the right to talk to the coaches, it’s part of my job.

“But it’s a throwback by all definitions of that.”


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