Boston – The Miami Heat lost their second game to the Boston Celtics in person.
That was the message coming out of the Heat’s locker room after an audacious 109-103 victory Saturday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After feeling awkward during a poor performance in Game 2 where the group never found their rhythm on either end of the floor, the Heat started Saturday’s game with the kind of edge on both sides of the floor that defined their season.
“They hit us like we stole something in the second game,” said Pam Adebayo of the Heat. “So awaken a fire in all of us.”
After struggling to find a groove during the first two games of the series, Adebayo played one of the best matches of his career in Game 3 while collecting 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a block in 42 minutes during a 15-for-22 shot from the ground.
Adebayo managed to lead the Heat to victory even after superstar Jimmy Butler had to leave the match at the end of the first half with an infection in his right knee that made it all the more impressive.
Butler has been dealing with the same problem since he first injured his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks and lost Game 5. After sitting out the entire second half on Saturday, he was seen greeting his teammates. The locker room as they make their way from the TD Garden floor.
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said Butler won’t need another knee MRI, but his status in Game 4 on Monday night remains unclear.
“He didn’t have such an ordinary explosion as an explosion,” Spoilstra said of Butler. “He was able to manage this. I think the next couple of days are going to be really important, obviously.
“In the first half, really, the coaches made the call. It just feels like we’ve been in this situation a lot with a few of our guys. We almost have to rein them in. We get it and we love it about them, how wired. But we also don’t want to be irresponsible.”
As has become familiar throughout Spoelstra’s time in Miami, the rest of the Heat were able to climb up and pick up the slack. Kyle Lowery, who hasn’t played since re-affecting his left hamstring in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia 76ers on May 8, scored 11 points and six assists while making a steady veteran presence on the defensive end.
“Something about this team is that we have guys that work really hard,” Lowry said. “Udonis [Haslem] He always says we all got it the hard way, each of us. Lots of undeveloped players, lots of less choice players, and second-round guys. We’ve all found ways to make this our livelihood and we’ve found ways to do our work to a high standard and be here and stay. This is a big thing for us.”
A former G League player who made a big difference on Saturday is Max Strus. The 25-year-old hit the biggest shot of the night when he nailed a three-pointer with 2:16 remaining in the game that gave the Heat, who were clinging to a 93-92 lead, the dagger they needed to close the Celtics.
As Strauss explained, it was Laurie who put together the final sequence.
“On time, Kyle said, ‘Let’s make a wait for Max,'” Strauss said. “Let’s make it open. So when he said that, I had all the confidence in the world to come forward and move on.”
The Heat are still confident they can find a way to win this series, even as Butler and goalkeeper Tyler Herro, who is dealing with what appears to be a quadruple injury, try to find their way back down to Earth for Game 4.
The Heat of TD Garden was elated because they knew they had found a way under adverse conditions and delivered the Celtics the kind of blow many didn’t expect after this demolition by Boston in Game 2.
“They were like a wounded animal,” said Al Horford, the big Celtics. “They went out to fight. For whatever reason, we didn’t have the same sense of urgency.”
Now, while the Heat waits to see how Butler’s knee responds to treatment, they do so knowing they will return to Miami at worst with a 2-2 draw in the series.
“No matter what happens, at the end of the day, if you do your best and play hard, you should be happy and live with the results,” Lowry said. “This is what we do.”
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report