Celtics-Heat takeaways: Huge comeback falls short in wild Game 3 loss

Bam Adebayo

BOSTON -- The Celtics don't like to make things easy on themselves.

The Miami Heat jumped all over the C's early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night, opening up a 26-point lead in the first half to stun the TD Garden crowd.

Boston came surging back, however, cutting the deficit to one point late in fourth quarter after Heat star Jimmy Butler was ruled out of the second half due to a knee injury.

Smart makes Pierce-like return from ankle injury in Game 3

Miami made its own late surge, though, going on a 7-0 run in the closing minutes to hold for a 109-103 win.

Jaylen Brown exploded for a game-high 40 points to help the Celtics mount their comeback, while Al Horford added 20 points and 14 rebounds and Marcus Smart chipped in 16 points.

But Jayson Tatum finished with just 10 points on 3 of 14 shooting, while Bam Adebayo (31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) had a monster game to help the Heat take a 2-1 series lead.

Here are our takeaways from a wild night at TD Garden that ended with Boston facing a 2-1 series deficit entering Monday's Game 4.

Celtics lay a dud in the first quarter

How did the Celtics fall into a 26-point hole, you ask?

Well, they had as many turnovers (five) as made field goals in the first 12 minutes, going 5 for 18 from the floor while Heat guard Kyle Lowry pushed the pace on the other end.


After racing out to early leads in Games 1 and 2, the Celtics looked disjointed on offense in the early going and may have trailed by more than 21 points at the end of the first had Brown not bailed them out with 11 of their first 18 points. 

Injuries add drama on both ends

While Butler missed the second half for Miami, the Celtics saw two of their stars leave the game with apparently serious injuries ... only to both return minutes later.

Smart went down with a nasty right leg injury less than a minute into the third quarter and had to be helped off the floor.

​The Celtics guard miraculously returned just five minutes later, though -- and promptly hit a corner 3-pointer that set TD Garden off.

Boston got an even bigger scare in the fourth quarter when Tatum when down midway through the fourth quarter heavily favoring his right shoulder.

Tatum took a queue from Smart, however, and ran out of the tunnel shortly after to finish the game.

Tatum's injury in particular is worth monitoring, and it will be crushing blow for Boston if he's forced to miss any time. But he and Smart showed plenty of heart by coming back to the game despite their ailments.

One of the two Jays does his part

The good news: Boston got a combined 50 points from Tatum and Brown. The bad news: Only 10 of those points came from Tatum.

Tatum struggled all night, going 3 of 14 from the floor and 1 of 7 from 3-point range while failing to shake loose from Miami's aggressive defense.

It was his lowest scoring output since Game 3 of the East semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks and only the second time he's failed to score at least 15 points this postseason.

Brown stepped up in a huge way, pouring in 14 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to help the Celtics roar back.

While Brown deserves plenty of praise, it's hard to win a postseason game when your best player can't buy a bucket.

Bam Adebayo has his breakout game

Adebayo scored just 16 points total through the first two games, but the version of the big man who torched the Celtics in the 2020 East Finals returned Saturday night.

Adebayo racked up 12 points in the first quarter alone, taking advantage of Robert Williams' absence to score at will in the paint.

The Heat big man was an offensive force throughout the game, scoring a team-high 31 points and giving Miami a much-needed boost on offense with its leading scorer (Butler) sidelined for the second half.

Robert Williams' defense was sorely missed in this one, as the Celtics had no answer for Adebayo and allowed 48 points in the paint.