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Bam Adebayo, Heat take Game 3 from Celtics

Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Three

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 21: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat reacts after a late basket in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 21, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

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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:

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):

pbt heat steals game 3 celtics 2022 eastern conference finals

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.

Victor Oladipo, who played 20 second-half minutes with Butler out, had another four steals. Tucker – who, like Lowry, wasn’t certain to play – had three steals and even chipped in 17 points.

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.