BOSTON — The final scoresheet indicates that the Miami Heat executed a wire-to-wire victory on their way to retaking the lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. The actual route taken in earning that victory could not have been more turbulent nor more painful, though Bam Adebayo’s reemergence as the All-Star, all-everything center the league has grown accustomed to could not have been more gratifying for the visitors.
Adebayo scored 31 points while added 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals as Miami built a lead as much as 26 points, then saw it cut down to a single point, before finally putting the Boston Celtics away, 109-193, to take a two-games-to-one series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday evening at TD Garden. P.J. Tucker scored 17 points and Max Strus scored 16, including a three-pointer with 2:05 left after the Heat’s lead had been whittled down to one, as Miami’s role players stepped up in the absence of star Jimmy Butler, who did not play in the second half due to knee inflammation.
“[Bam] did his version of what Jimmy does: ‘Do what’s necessary for the game,’” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Tonight we needed the scoring and we needed that offensive punch early on. Then, when Jimmy was out in the second half, he just stabilized us. It got a little gnarly out there and when it did, we were able to get the ball to Bam and just get something coherent.”
“Gnarly” was the perfect description of a game in which the Heat once led 46-20, saw that same lead cut down to 15 after the Celtics ended the first half on a 10-0 run, then dealt with the realization of coming out for the second half without Butler and, on the other side, had Boston deal with injury scares of their own when Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum leave the game with injuries after lying on the parquet floor for an extended period of time upon suffering the injuries.
Both Smart (ankle) and Tatum (shoulder) returned to the game, and by the time Jaylen Brown knocked down a deep left win three off a pass from Smart with 2:40 left in the game, Boston had moved to within 93-92 inside a ever-deafening TD Garden. On the next possession, however, Strus came off a screen to hit a deep three of his own to quell the crowd. Miami forced a shot clock violation on Boston’s next trip down the court, and Adebayo’s jumper towards the end of the shot clock moved the lead back up to six at 98-92. Boston would get no closer.
Miami reclaims home-court advantage after they were humbled 127-102 in Game 2 by the Celtics, a game that made many believe the series would turn in the Celtics favor for good once the series made its way to the Northeast.
“In the previous game, as everybody noticed, they beat us like we stole something,” said Adebayo, who only scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds combined in Games 1 and 2. “That should wake everybody up. Getting beat at home like that, that says it all.”
Somehow, the Celtics were almost able to pull out the improbably comeback despite committing 23 turnovers. Brown, although he had seven of those giveaways, scored 40 points on an efficient 14-of-20 from the field, with 25 points coming in the second half. Tatum, who had six turnovers himself, was not able to create the same late-game magic that he has produced throughout Boston’s run to the conference finals, scoring just two points and being shut out from the field (0-for-4) in 22 second-half minutes played.
“Six turnovers, and no field goals in the second half – that is unacceptable,” Tatum said. “Honestly, I’ve got to play better. I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight. That’s on me.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s Game 3, with all photos taken by ALOST photographer Jenny Rohl. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 43 pictures in total.