JAYLEN BROWN scored 26 points, Jayson Tatum had 25 and 14 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics recovered from back-to-back tough losses to beat the Miami Heat 117-106 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night near Orlando.
Kemba Walker added 21 points and Marcus Smart 20 as the Celtics avoided falling behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. Boston shot 48.2% (41 of 85) as a team, outscoring Miami 60-36 in the paint.
Bam Adebayo had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Tyler Herro scored 22 to lead six players in double figures for the Heat, who lost for just the second time in their 12th playoff game. Jimmy Butler had 17 points.
“We didn’t play hard enough,” Butler said. “We weren’t playing basketball the way that we have been to win the games that we have been winning.”
Game 4 will take place Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).
In the wake of falling behind 2-0 in the series after Thursday’s defeat, Celtics players reportedly aired their frustrations in a raucous locker room scene. The team responded, boosted further by the return of Gordon Hayward (six points in 31 minutes) from an ankle injury that sidelined him since Aug. 17.
“I didn’t expect to play him that much,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I thought he looked pretty good. … He asked to come out a couple times — the wind caught up to him a couple times — but I thought he did what he’s done all year.”
“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore, but I’m proud of the way we fought and proud of us getting the win,” Hayward said.
Boston never trailed, carrying a 13-point advantage into the second half for the second straight game. But unlike in Game 2, when they were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter, the Celtics maintained control and entered the fourth up 89-74.
Despite Boston leading by as much as 20 in the final period, Miami got within seven, 109-102, after Duncan Robinson nailed a 3-pointer and hit 1 of 2 at the line following a Brown flagrant foul with 1:03 left. Adebayo trimmed the deficit to five with 55.9 seconds to go, but Smart hit eight free throws as the Celtics held on.
“I don’t think we finished today as well as we would have liked, but we played some good basketball all the way through,” said Brown.
Boston was up 31-22 after one and grew its lead to 12, 36-24, on a Walker 3-pointer with 10:14 left in the first half. Miami responded with a 13-4 run to get within three, Herro nailing a trio of treys during the stretch.
The Heat were back within three, 51-48, with 3:22 remaining, but the Celtics ended the quarter on a 12-2 spurt to lead 63-50 at the break.
“They came out with great force in this game, and you do have to credit them for that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. — Reuters