BOSTON (AP) The Heat were embarrassed in Game 2, losing home court advantage in a crushing loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami returned the favor in Game 3 with 26 points in the first half en route to a 109–103 victory despite star Jimmy Butler sitting out the second half with swelling in his right knee. Tyler Herro also missed the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter with a groin injury.
With Boston’s Jason Tatum (sting) and Marcus Smart (sprained ankle) also suffering late injuries, the Celtics went from a chance to take control of the streak to trying to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time in two months. .
In addition to Tatum and Smart, center Robert Williams III missed Game 3 with swelling in his surgically repaired left knee.
As expected, Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the coaching table was busy on Saturday.
“Marcus has a swelling on his ankle. Got quite a stretch. Finished the game, but today he will feel it a little more,” Udoka said.
“We started to work and were treated. Let’s see how he feels tomorrow. Jason is fine. It’s a sting that went away fairly quickly. And Rob got better. Feels better than yesterday. . It’s from day to day. We’ll check it tomorrow and see how he feels.”
Tatum (pinched nerve) is likely in Game 4, with Smart and Williams listed as dubious.
Miami, fending off Boston’s late-game attack to keep the win and take a 2-1 series lead is a hopeful sign for the Heat, who were down 15-10 in the regular season without Butler. The Heat also ended their first-round series against Atlanta without Butler and Kyle Lowry.
Lowry played in the series for the first time on Saturday, posting 11 points, six assists and four steals in 29 minutes. He missed eight of the previous 10 games with a right hamstring injury.
He said it was nice to be back, but admitted it was hard to see Butler and Herro added to their injury list – potentially leaving Miami underpowered again.
“Just being able to be there with my guys is always fun,” Lowry said. “Injuries are part of the game. It’s a sucky part of the game, injuries and it’s hard. Jimmy is a warrior. Tyler is a warrior. But we have to keep staying focused on what we’ve done as a group… and hopefully these guys will come back and be ready for the next game.”
The Heat listed Buter (knee), Lowry (hamstring), Herro (groin), Max Strus (hamstring), Gabe Vincent (hamstring) and PJ Tucker (knee) as questionable for Game 4.
Udoka said whoever ends up at Miami’s disposal on Monday, it will be the Celtics’ responsibility to limit their unforced errors.
Boston passed the ball 24 times in the 2022 playoffs in Game 3, leading to Miami’s 33 points. The Heat also had 22 more shots than the Celtics.
“Obviously those things stand out and in a lot of ways we played to the public by trying to do too much rather than just passing,” said Udoka. “When you look at these areas, at times we had a good carryover, but at times we took a step back.
Tatum said that avoiding what appears to be Miami’s magic number 39 would also be paramount. Miami had 39 points in the third quarter to take control in Game 1, and edge the Celtics 39-18 in the first quarter of Game 3.
“There is no excuse. We can’t determine their 39 points in the first quarter. Obviously we were just trying to get through it for the rest of the game,” Tatum said. “So we obviously have to start the game better.”
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