BOSTON – Miami Heat quarterback Kyle Lowry made a statement as the first owner of the game.
He picked up a missed Boston Celtics rebound and sped the ball across the court before finding Max Strus for an open three-pointer.
Thus began an avalanche against a typically solid Celtics defense. Miami’s dominant first quarter on Saturday provided enough buffer to withstand Boston’s furious return and the in-game emotional flashbacks of Celtics players who appeared to be seriously injured. But it was the return of the two Heat stars that enabled Miami’s 109-103 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The first star was Lowry, who was absent from most of the playoffs due to a knee injury. The other was Bam Adebayo. seemingly He didn’t come out of the show. Adebayo’s 16 points in the first half were equal to his total in Games 1 and 2. 3. He finished the game with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Miami leads the series 2-1.
“They beat Miami’s 25-point loss in Game 2 in the previous game, as everybody knows, like we stole something,” Adebayo said. “This should wake everyone up.”
This was undoubtedly a strange series. In 12 quarters, the Heat have outdone the Celtics just twice, but they’re leading the overalls, pushing the series two-game to one. These two quarters determined the series. First, in the third quarter of Match 1, the Heat Defeated the Celtics, 39-14. The other was in the opening frame on Saturday night, when the Heat took a 39-18 lead. The match featured mostly wild kicks and uncharacteristic weak defensive stretches of the two teams that typically considered this a strength.
“The margin of error on both sides is so small that you have to stay on course through all the emotions and the ups and downs,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. Said.
The Heat had a new strategy for Game 3: Move faster.
Miami consistently hit the Celtics defense by pushing the ball in the first half. This left the Celtics timeless to adapt. In the case of Adebayo, this sometimes meant taking a pass at half the court, then going right up the field and going to the basket against the slower Al Horford.
“I’ve seen Bam play like that a lot, but tonight was special,” Strus said. “Just because of all the noise and criticism he was getting, it was too big for him to take such a step.”
In Lowry’s case, pushing the ball meant grabbing a pass after the Celtics’ basket and throwing the ball onto the court to Jimmy Butler for a wide-open layup.
But it wasn’t just quick attacks: When Adebayo got the ball on the post, he immediately returned to the paint instead of holding the ball and waiting for the defense to respond. The Heat weren’t used to playing like this: In the regular season, top speed in the league.
The Heat were leading by 26 points in the first half. They were leading 15 points at halftime.
The Heat forced 23 turnovers, which helped them press for quick breaks. The Celtics’ ball managers were unable to dribble as the Heat’s defense was so adept at peeling the ball. Boston’s Jaylen Brown, one of the best central defenders in the NBA, has repeatedly lost the ball to Victor Oladipo, who made four steals from the bench. There was also Lowry and Adebayo four rings each.
Celtics Coach “We’ve made their job a lot easier on this one” Ime Udoka I said. “Obviously, they can’t come out that far whether they stop or shoot a basket, but scoring 33 points in our 24 turnovers is hard to handle.”
With seven turnovers, Brown put at least some of the blame on the referees, despite Boston’s 30 free throws to Miami’s 14.
“They let a lot of things go tonight, especially when I feel like I’m driving and reaching the pot. I always feel like I’m on it with both hands,” Brown said. “I never get those hand control calls.”
The heat even ruined what would have been a dramatic story arc for the Celtics. In the third quarter, Celtics winner Marcus Smart Defender of the Year Awardleft the game after suffering a horrific right leg injury in a rebound attempt. He fell to the ground, writhing in pain, and was helped to get off the ground and into the locker room.
Within minutes, he was back in the tunnel and into the game, to the deafening roars of the Celtics crowd. He immediately took a 3 in a corner to reduce the heat deficit to 10. Then came a dramatic moment in the fourth quarter when Boston’s top player, Jayson Tatum, also fell to the ground, clutching his right shoulder. Like Smart, he had to get up off the ground. But it reappeared minutes later.
The Celtics looked ready for a storybook comeback. They savagely attacked the basket as they muffled themselves in an arena filled with green-shirted fans. Brown’s 3-pointer with 2 minutes 40 seconds closed the Heat to 1 in a game where Boston had no lead. Almost certainly all the productions were there for a Hollywood movie starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
A bailout plan for Miami came in the form of impromptu third-year guard Strus, who took minutes from top guards Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. He responded to Brown’s jump with his own 3-pointer and quenched the Celtics crowd. Lowry put a stop to the game’s keynote, providing help with the stats table and providing separate help as a group.
“During the break,” said Kyle, “Let’s make a point for Max,” said Strus. “Let’s open it up. So when he said that, I had all the confidence in the world to step up and shoot.”
Health will be a decisive factor going forward in the series. Butler missed the second half of Game 3 due to knee inflammation. The Celtics missed starting center Robert Williams III due to swelling in his knees. It is considered daily. Udoka said that after the match, Smart sprained his ankle and shot Tatum with a needle in his shoulder.
“I assume they’ll be fine,” said Udoka.
With his tough play and calming effect on offense, Lowry was a troublemaker on defense and was similar to the player he was when he won the title with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He finished the game with 11 points, 6 assists and 4 steals. It wasn’t always pretty, but it worked. He said he felt “good” after the game, although he had trouble finding rhythm.
“No matter what happens, at the end of the day, if you put your heart into it and play hard, you should be happy and just live with the results, and that’s what we do,” Lowry said.