Bam Adebayo had 16 points and three assists in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals combined.
He about doubled those marks in Game 3 alone.
Way more involved offensively and active as ever defensively, Adebayo (31 points and six assists plus 10 rebounds and four of the Heat’s 19 [!] steals) led Miami to a 109-103 win over the Celtics on Saturday in Boston.
The Heat take a 2-1 series lead even with Jimmy Butler – the NBA’s top–performing player in the playoffs so far – missing the second half due to right knee inflammation. However, he could return in Game 4 Monday, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 22, 2022
Miami led by 26 in the second quarter and was still up 15 when Butler left the game at halftime. The Heat allowed their advantage to slip to four with four minutes left but hung on without their superstar.
Credit Miami’s opportunistic defense.
P.J. Tucker led a phenomenal effort on Jayson Tatum (10 points on 3-of-14 shooting with four assists and six turnovers). Jaylen Brown scored 40 points on 11-of-11 2-point shooting, but seven turnovers expose the downside of overly relying on him.
The Celtics threw so many aggressive passes against the exact wrong defense. Sometimes, it seemed multiple Heat players were competing with each other to snag a Boston pass.
Miami’s 19 steals are tied for third-most in a playoff game since at least 1983 (as far back as Basketball-Reference has records):
The steals helped the Heat get out in transition. As did Kyle Lowry, who returned after missing eight of the last 10, including the last four, with a hamstring injury.
Lowry’s pace pushing fueled Adebayo’s success. Adebayo is more comfortable at that tempo, and Miami’s top point guard is adept at getting the ball ahead. It certainly helped that Lowry got four steals.
This back-and-forth series continues with back-and-forth injury updates. Celtics center Robert Williams missed the game with swelling and soreness in his knee. Afterward, Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Williams would face those issues the rest of the playoffs and was day-to-day.