Miami Heat survives Jimmy Butler exit to grab a brave win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3


Miami Heat survives Jimmy Butler exit to grab a brave win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3

BOSTON — The Miami Heat took their Game 2 loss to the Boston Celtics personally.

That was the message coming out of a proud Heat locker room after a brave 109-103 win Saturday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series.

After embarrassing themselves during a lackluster performance in Game 2 that saw the group never find their rhythm at either end of the floor, the Heat started Saturday’s game with the kind of advantage on both sides of the floor that theirs season defined.

“They hit us like we stole something in Game 2,” said heat center Bam Adebayo. “So that kindled a fire in all of us.”

After struggling to find a groove in the first two games of the series, Adebayo played one of the best games of his career in Game 3 as he racked up 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and a block in 42 minutes while playing 15 -for shot -22 off the ground.

It was even more impressive that Adebayo was able to lead the Heat to victory after star swingman Jimmy Butler had to leave the game at halftime with a sore right knee.

Butler has struggled with the same problem since injuring his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks and missing the series-defining Game 5. After sitting out the entire second half on Saturday, he was seen greeting his teammates in the dressing room as they exited the TD Garden floor.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Butler would not need another knee MRI, but his status for Monday night’s Game 4 remains unclear.

“He didn’t have his normal explosion,” Spoelstra said of Butler. “He did it. I think the next two days will obviously be very important.

“The coaches really called at half-time. I just feel like we’ve been in that situation a lot with some of our guys. We almost have to hold them back. We get it and we love how wired they are. But we don’t want to be irresponsible either.”

As has become customary during Spoelstra’s time in Miami, the rest of the Heat roster was able to step up and close the gap. Kyle Lowry, who has not played since reinjuring his left hamstring in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers on May 8, had 11 points and six assists while providing a consistent veteran presence on defense.

“Something about this team is that we have people who work hard,” Lowry said. “Udonis [Haslem] always says we all got it the hard way, all of us. Lots of uncollected guys, lots of low-round pick guys, second-round guys. We’ve all found ways to do it for a living and we’ve found ways to do our jobs at a high level and be here and stay here. That’s big for us.”

One former G-League player who made a big difference was Max Strus. The 25-year-old guard hit the biggest shot of the evening when he nailed a 3-pointer at 2:16 in the game that gave the Heat, who were clinging to a 93-92 lead, the dagger they needed to shut down the Celtics out of.

As Strus explained, it was actually Lowry who created the final sequence.

“On time out, Kyle said, let’s run a pindown for Max,” Strus said. “Let’s open it. When he said that, I had all the confidence in the world to step up and take a shot.”

The Heat still have full confidence that they can find a way to win this series, even as Butler and guard Tyler Herro, who is dealing with what appears to be a quadriceps injury, are trying to get back on the ground for Game 4 .

The Heat left TD Garden beaming, knowing they had found a way through the odds and delivered the punch to the Celtics that many didn’t expect after such destruction by Boston in Game 2.

“They were like a wounded animal,” said Al Horford, the Celtics’ big man. “They came out fighting. For some reason we just didn’t have the same sense of urgency.”

Now, as the Heat wait to see how Butler’s knee responds to treatment, they know they’ll return to Miami with a 2-2 draw in the series.

“No matter what happens, at the end of the day you have to be happy and just live with the results if you put your heart into it and play hard,” Lowry said. “And we do.”

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report

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