BOSTON – The Miami Heat personally suffered their Game 2 loss to the Boston Celtics.
That was the message coming out of a proud Heat locker room after a gutsy 109-103 victory on Saturday night gave them a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After being embarrassed throughout a lackluster Game 2 performance in which the group never found their rhythm at either end of the floor, the Heat entered Saturday’s game with the type of advantage on both sides of the floor. ground that defined their season.
“They beat us like we stole something in Game 2,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “So that ignited a fire in all of us.”
After struggling to find a rhythm in the first two games of the series, Adebayo played one of the best games of his career in Game 3 while racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and a block in 42 minutes while shooting 15-for-22 from the floor.
That Adebayo was able to lead the Heat to victory even after star swingman Jimmy Butler had to leave the game at halftime with an inflamed right knee made it even more impressive.
Butler has struggled with the same issue since his first knee injury in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks and missed the deciding Game 5 series. sat out the entire second half on Saturday, he was seen waving to teammates in the locker room as they left the ground floor of the TD Garden.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Butler won’t need another knee MRI, but his status for Monday night’s Game 4 remains unclear.
“He didn’t have his normal explosive burst,” Spoelstra said of Butler. “He was able to handle that. I think the next two days will be really important, obviously.
“At half-time, really, the coaches made the call. I just feel like we’ve been in this situation a lot of times with a few of our guys. We almost have to hold them back. We understand and we We love that about them, how they’re wired in. But we don’t want to be irresponsible either.
As has become the custom throughout Spoelstra’s time in Miami, the rest of the Heat roster was able to step up and take over. Kyle Lowry, who hadn’t played since re-injuring his left hamstring in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers on May 8, had 11 points and six assists while ensuring a consistent veteran presence on the defensive end.
“Something about this team is just that we have hard working guys,” Lowry said. “Udonis [Haslem] always says we all got it the hard way, all of us. Lots of undrafted guys, lots of lower pick guys, second-round guys. We’ve all found ways to make it our life and do our job at a high level and be here and stay. It’s important to us.”
One former G League player who made a huge difference on Saturday was Max Strus. The 25-year-old guard hit the biggest shot of the night when he hit a 3-pointer with 2:16 left in the game that gave the Heat, who had held on to a 93-92 lead, the dagger they needed to shut down the Celtics.
As Strus explained, it was actually Lowry who put together the final sequence.
“In timeout, Kyle said, let’s pindown for Max,” Strus said. “Let him open. So when he said that, I had all the confidence in the world to step in and take a shot.”
The Heat are still confident they can find a way to win this series, even though Butler and guard Tyler Herro, who is dealing with what appears to be a quad injury, are trying to find their way back to the ground for the game. 4. .
The Heat came out of the TD Garden beaming because they knew they had found a way under adverse circumstances and dealt the Celtics the kind of blow many weren’t expecting after such a demolition by Boston in Game 2 .
“They were like a wounded animal,” Celtics big man Al Horford said. “They came out to fight. For some reason, we just didn’t have the same sense of urgency.”
Now, as the Heat wait to see how Butler’s knee responds to treatment, they do so knowing they’ll return to Miami with a 2-2 series draw at worst.
“No matter what happens, at the end of the day, if you put your heart into it and play hard, you have to be happy and live with the results,” Lowry said. “And that’s what we do.”
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report