Celtics fume at ‘unacceptable’ playoff meltdown

Still angry over a blowout loss in Miami that cost them home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat jumped to a 25-point, first-half lead over the Boston Celtics in game three.

Then Bam Adebayo made sure it was enough – just barely – to give Miami a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Heat center scored 31 points with 10 rebounds, filling a void left by injured All-Star Jimmy Butler and leading Miami to a 109-103 victory. Adebayo also had six assists and four of the Heat’s franchise postseason record 19 steals.

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“He did his version of what Jimmy does: ‘Do what’s necessary for the game,'” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Tonight we needed the scoring and we needed that offensive punch early on.

“Then, when Jimmy was out in the second half, he just stabilized us.

“It got a little gnarly out there and when it did, we were able to get the ball to Bam and just get something coherent.”

The Celtics never led, but they cut a 62-37 deficit to one point, 93-92, with 2:40 to play on a three-pointer from Jaylen Brown, who finished with 40 points. Max Strus answered with a three and then Adebayo bounced off defender Al Horford and made a basket at the shot clock buzzer to give Miami a six-point cushion.

The Celtics never came any closer.

Game four is Tuesday in Boston.

“In the previous game, as everybody noticed, they beat us like we stole something,” Adebayo said. “That should wake everybody up. Getting beat at home like that, that says it all.”

In a bruising game that saw Butler and Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart leave with injuries — though both Celtics returned — Kyle Lowry came back from a four-game absence and scored 11 with six assists for the Heat. PJ Tucker—like Lowry, a game-time decision—scored 17 for Miami.

Horford scored 20 points with 14 rebounds, and Smart scored 16. Tatum had 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting; he also had six turnovers, and Brown committed seven of Boston’s 2022 playoff-high 24 turnovers.

“Six turnovers, and no field goals in the second half – that is unacceptable,” Tatum said. “Honestly, I’ve got to play better. I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight. That’s on me.”

After losing game two at home by 25 points, the Heat opened a 62-37 lead with under three minutes left in the second quarter. Then Boston scored the last 10 points of the half to claw its way back into the game.

Things got worse for the Heat when they announced at halftime that Butler, who scored 41 in the series opener, would not return with right knee inflammation.

Miami still led by 15, 87-72, after three, and made it a 17-point game on Adebayo’s basket to start the fourth. But the Celtics ran off the next nine points to get within single digits for the first time since the first three minutes of the game. Trailing 93-80, the Celtics scored 12 straight points – 10 by Brown – to make it a one-point game with 2:40 left.

Miami scored the next seven points.

“We didn’t think that it was all of a sudden going to be an easy series and they were going to roll over,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said. “We bounced back from game one to game two, and they were going to do the same that and we had to match that and came out flat for whatever reason.”

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