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How it happened: Heat start fast and hold off every Celtics rally to take 2-1 series lead

Jaylen Brown (right) was defebded by Max Strus in the first quarter.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

The Miami Heat overcame the loss of star forward Jimmy Butler and several Celtics rallies to prevail, 109-103, on Saturday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden.

Miami leads the best-of-7 series, 2-1.

Butler did not return to the game after the first half because of right knee inflammation.

The Celtics had 24 turnovers and the Heat had 19 steals.

Bam Adebayo scored 31 points to lead the Heat, who were blown out in Game 2 but responded with a fast start in Game 3.

The Heat raced to a 39-18 lead in the first quarter but a 10-0 run to end the half trimmed it to 62-47 at halftime. Jayson Tatum connected for a three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left to trim the lead to 15 after it had been as high as 26 points in the first half.


Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 40 points and Al Horford had 20.

Game 4 is Monday at TD Garden at 8:30 p.m.

Below are updates, commentary, and analysis as posted throughout the game..

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Shaughnessy: Who knows what to expect in Game 4 — 11:30 p.m.

By Dan Shaughnessy

Hold off on those round-trip plane tickets to San Francisco for the NBA Finals.

And forget about Celtics-In-Five.

Two days after dominating Miami in Game 2, the Celtics stumbled to a 26-point, first-half deficit in Game 3 and suffered a well-deserved 109-103 loss to the still-proud Heat Saturday night at the Garden.

On a night when both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum suffered injuries, went to the locker room, then made dramatic returns, Boston cut a 26 point lead all the way down to one point with 2:32 left, only to fall shot. Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 40 points. Twenty-four turnovers killed the Celtics and Bam Adebayo, who averaged eight points in the first two games, scored 31 to go along with 10 rebounds and 6 assists for the winners.


Read Dan’s full column here.

Jayson Tatum injured, but returns — 10:56 p.m.

With 5:18 to go, Jayson Tatum left the court with what appears to be a shoulder injury. The Celtics trailed, 93-85, at the time. With 3:40 left, Tatum re

turned to the court.

Yang: Huge ovation for Jayson Tatum after he emerged from the locker room. Even louder when he checked back into the game.

Finn: Jaylen up to 32 points with a floater in the lane to cut the Heat lead to 6. Meanwhile, we keep an eye on the tunnel to see if Tatum comes back out ...

Heat’s lead down to single digits — 10:39 p.m.

With 8:52 to go, Miami takes a timeout after Boston cut the lead to 89-80 on a Grant Williams three-pointer.

Finn: So many weird stats in this one. Heat has 15 steals, Celtics 1. Celtics have more turnovers (18) than assists (15). Celtics have 24 free throws to the Heat’s 5.

Thurston: Celtics are now 20 of 27 from the line. Have to be better than that.

Finn: Kyle Lowry hit a 3 at 8:48 of the first quarter to put the Heat up 14-4. This is the first time their lead has been single digits since then.

Heat remain on top after three quarters — 10:28 p.m.

Miami leads, 87-72, after three quarters.

Finn: Celtics are getting in their own way with some careless ballhandling. They have 17 turnovers. Brown has five, more than the Heat (4).


Yang: Jaylen Brown’s handle has improved tremendously since college, but he’s still getting pickpocketed far too often.

Finn: He must have dribbled with his elbows in college, because this is brutal.

For all of the Celtics’ hints at a comeback, the Heat actually built their lead in the third from 12 to 15. Celtics just too careless with the ball. Kind of thought Ime should have called a settle-down timeout with 5 or so minutes left.

Smart returns — 10:12 p.m.

Much to the delight of the TD Garden crowd, Marcus Smart has returned to the floor after briefly leaving after rolling his ankle early in the third quarter. He drilled a three-pointer with 6:05 left in the period, and Miami called timeout after seeing its lead cut to 10, 72-62.

Finn: I can’t believe Smart is coming back in. Potentially legendary stuff here. He’s a better shooter with a destroyed ankle.

It really does feel like Paul Pierce coming back in Game 1 of the 2008 Finals. Except in this case, it was really obvious Smart was hurt.

Thurston: Garden is electric right now, as loud as I’ve heard it.

Heat’s Butler out, Celtics’ Smart injured — 10:00 p.m.

Knee inflammation will keep Heat star Jimmy Butler out for the rest of Game 3, the Heat announced. He was replaced in the Miami lineup by Victor Oladipo to start the second half.

Then, less than two minutes into the second half, Celtics guard Marcus Smart also left the game because of a right ankle injury. Smart rolled the ankle as he landed, and then had the Heat’s Kyle Lowry fall on the same foot.


Heat lead at halftime — 9:40 p.m.

The Heat lead, 62-47, at halftime. Jayson Tatum connected for a three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left to trim the lead to 15 after it had been as high as 26 points.

Jaylen Brown leads the Celtics with 15 points and Al Horford scored 12 in the first half.

Bam Adebayo leads Miami with 16, while three players have eight – Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, and Max Strus.

Finn: Celtics end the first half on a 10-0 run. Down 15 at the break. That seems ... manageable?

Yang: The Celtics couldn’t have asked for a better end to the half after an otherwise atrocious 20 or so minutes of basketball. Trailing by 15 instead of 20-plus is huge. The start to the third quarter will be key for both teams. The pressure is on the Heat because they certainly had their chances to end this one early.

Bam having a game — 9:37 p.m.

With 2:16 left in the first half, the Heat lead, 60-35, and Bam Adebayo leads Miami with 16 points.

Finn: Celtics have seven assists. Adebayo has six.

Yang: The Celtics also have 10 turnovers. Never a good sign when your assist to turnover ratio is < 1. 

Can the Celtics rally? — 9:31 p.m.

With 4:19 left in the second quarter, the Heat lead, 54-35.

Finn: Heat are taking some curious shots from 3.

Yang: The Celtics will be in the bonus for the final 4:41 of the second quarter, so that’s one way for them to claw their way back.


The crowd isn’t happy with this — 9:22 p.m.

Yang: Some boos came in after the first quarter, when the Celtics were outscored 39-18. Then more boos rained down two minutes into the second when Ime Udoka called a timeout after the Heat extended their lead, 46-20. The Celtics have shown their resilience and toughness on multiple occasions this postseason, but they’re playing some uninspiring basketball tonight.

Finn: The last time the Celtics trailed by 26 in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference finals was May 25, 2002 vs. the Nets. Here is the box score from that one. Mike Breen called that game too.

Yang: Back-to-back and-ones by Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum have certainly amped up the crowd and might be what the Celtics need to jump-start their otherwise lackluster offense. Shotmaking doesn’t matter as much, though, if you can’t string together some stops.

Finn: All they need is Antoine Walker to start making some 3s. Gonna need Pritchard to score against that stupid zone.

Look who is back — 9:16 p.m.

Yang: Duncan Robinson sighting! The 20-point lead might have played a role, but Erik Spoelstra seems to be folding him back into the Heat rotation.

As for celebrity sightings in the Garden, all we have so far is rapper LL Cool J.

Heat win the first quarter — 9:05 p.m.

Winning quarters has become a thing in this series ever since Celtics coach Ime Udoka cited Boston outscoring Miami in three of the four quarters of Game 1.

Well, Miami won the first quarter of this one convincingly. The Heat lead, 39-18, heading into the second quarter.

Finn: Rough quarter for Marcus Smart, who went 0 for 3 from the field, missed a pair of free throws, and had just one assist. He had one turnover – same as his total  for the entire game in Game 2 – and made some weird decisions. Need Good Marcus in the second quarter, on both ends of the court.

A turning point? — 9:05 p.m.

Finn: I’m well past seeing enough of Grant Williams waving his arms for a foul call while the ball is headed the other way. (Tatum, too, obviously.)

Yang: The fans at TD Garden are getting a little antsy with the Celtics down big, 24-7, to start this one. Bam Adebayo needs to keep it up for the Heat. After scoring 16 points combined in Games 1 and 2, he’s already up to 10 seven minutes in.

A very dumb foul by Dewayne Dedmon sends Jaylen Brown to the line for three shots. Brown knocked down all three — and maybe that will serve as a little turning point for Boston’s offense, which has really struggled to get anything going so far. The team is 3 of 14 from the field (21.4 percent).

Heat out in front early — 8:53 p.m.

With 6:50 left in the first quarter, the Heat lead, 20-6

Finn: Heat making a conscious effort to push the ball more, and the Celtics have been caught napping a bit. Butler beat Smart down the court after a made Horford basket, converts the bucket, and draws a foul on Brown. Suddenly the Heat think they’re the Showtime Lakers. Must be a Pat Riley thing.

Yang: Chad, what do you need to see to retract your “Gabe Vincent > Kyle Lowry” take?

Finn: The first 4 minutes and 24 seconds apparently. And Bam looks like a different player.

Yang: Aggressive Bam is a game-changer for the Heat.

The crowd factor — 8:45 p.m.

Yang: Every team calls its fans the best sixth man in the league, but I’m genuinely curious which crowds can rival the noise inside TD Garden. Among the arenas this postseason — Barclays Center, Fiserv Forum, and FTX Arena — the answer is none.

Finn: Golden State’s crowd looks like it’s right on top of the court. And as Barkley said, they’re extremely annoying.

Major question mark for Heat — 8:35 p.m.

Yang: My big question for the Heat: Will Bam Adebayo assert himself more in the paint? Adebayo has had an incredibly quiet series offensively, but may be able to get going a bit more with Robert Williams out. Adebayo, recently named second-team All-Defense, emphasizes his defensive contributions more, but he should still pick his spots to be more aggressive as a scorer. He’s averaging 8 points on 5 shots per game — both below his season averages of 19.1 points on 13 shots.

Finn: Bam consistently roasted Theis in the bubble two years ago. The Heat would get him the ball over and over again at the high post and he would make a decision from there. No Horford in those days, though.

Kyle Lowry is as tough as it gets, but I have a hard time believing he’ll play better than Gabe Vincent has in this series.

Chad Finn’s prediction — 8:31 p.m.

Finn: It’s a bummer Rob Williams is out again with knee soreness. He has looked like his usual live-wire self in this series, and when the Celtics have their ideal starting five (Williams, Horford, Tatum, Brown and Smart), they have the look of the best team in the NBA.

But they should be able to win without him tonight as the series shifts to the Garden. It’s not like they don’t have experience playing without him. (Prediction: Celtics by 9.)

Starting lineups — 8:10 p.m.

Heat: F Jimmy Butler, F-C Bam Adebayo, G Kyle Lowry, G-F Max Strus, F PJ Tucker

Celtics: F Jayson Tatum, G-F Jaylen Brown, C-F Al Horford, C Daniel Theis, G Marcus Smart

Yang: Kyle Lowry is back in Miami’s starting lineup after missing Games 1 and 2 with a nagging hamstring injury. Hamstrings can be tricky, but if Lowry is close to 100 percent, his veteran presence will be welcomed by the Heat. Jimmy Butler said after Game 2 he needed to do a better job of getting his teammates involved, and Lowry will help tremendously in that regard.

P.J. Tucker will remain in the starting lineup after exiting Game 2 with a left knee contusion. Tucker has been banged up in this series, also rolling his ankle in Game 1, but he plays a critical role in Miami’s defensive scheme and helps space the floor on the other end.

After Game 1, Jimmy Butler said Tucker is one of the biggest reasons behind Miami’s success.

”He just plays incredibly hard,” Butler said. “He’s got the tough job every night of guarding the opposing team’s best player, and then going down there and also shooting the ball five times. You have to respect that.”

Tonight’s game officials — 7:50 p.m.

Per the NBA: Crew chief - James Capers (19); Referee - James Williams (60); Umpire - Curtis Blair (74).

Celtics’ Robert Williams out for Game 3 — 7:16 p.m.

By Adam Himmelsbach

Celtics center Robert Williams will miss Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat on Saturday due to left knee soreness. Williams was listed as questionable on the injury report earlier Saturday.

The center underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus on his left knee on March 30 and returned midway through the opening-round series against the Nets. He played in the first three games of the conference semifinals against the Bucks before missing the final four due to a bone bruise on his left knee.

He averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks over the first two games of this series against Miami.

Read the full story here.

Will the Heat turn to Duncan Robinson? — 7:00 p.m.

By Adam Himmelsbach

Two years ago, New Hampshire native Duncan Robinson was a revelation for the Heat as they made their improbable NBA Finals run in the Orlando bubble. The undrafted free agent shot a blistering 44.6 percent from the 3-point line and had a 20-point game against the Celtics in the conference finals.

It was a stunning rise for a player who went from Division III Williams College, to Michigan, to the G League, to the Heat. Last summer he was rewarded with a five-year, $90 million contract.

Robinson played in 79 games for Miami this year, starting 68, but during these playoffs he has mostly turned into an afterthought, with coach Erik Spoelstra relying on former Celtics two-way contract player Max Strus in that sharpshooter slot.

Strus was excellent during the first two rounds of these playoffs, but he has been less effective in the first two games of the conference finals against the Celtics. He has made 5 of 15 3-pointers, and Miami has been outscored by 13.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the worst net rating among Heat starters by nearly seven points.

The Heat are shooting just 29.9 percent from the 3-point line over their last 10 playoff games, raising questions about whether it might be time for Spoelstra to give Robinson another look.

Read Adam’s full pregame post here.

Welcome to Game 3 — 6:59 p.m.

The end of Game 2 of the Celtics-Heat series was a joke, with players on the court who might only get back on the floor in the event another game turns non-competitive and Heat starters lamenting being embarrassed.

So how will Jimmy Butler and Co. respond with the series tied and shifting to Boston? Game 3 on Saturday night will provide an answer, and Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra said adjustments are in order.

“I think I got a bit selfish on the offensive end,” said Butler, who scored 29 in Game 2 after a 41-point performance in Game 1. “I got to look to use my teammates. They have been there for me all year long and I got to get back to that because whenever they are scoring, whenever they are aggressive, we are a much better team.”

So the question is who steps up? Tyler Herro (18 in Game 1; 11 in Game 2) and Gabe Vincent (17 in Game 1; 14 in Game 2) are possibilities, but Game 2 was more in tune with the type of defense the Celtics can play. In Game 1, defensive player of the year Marcus Smart and big man Al Horford were both out.

An additional possibility for Miami is point guard Kyle Lowry, who was upgraded from out to questionable on Friday, and on Saturday appeared to be ready to give it a go in Game 3. Lowry, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, could help with ball distribution – after two games, Butler is the Heat’s leader in both points (35.0 ppg) and assists (4.0 apg)

“I just have to set better screens, attack more, touch the paint and look to kick the ball out even sometimes when I do have a layup,” Butler said. “Just because that is the right basketball play, and somebody is more than often going to be open. That’s on me. I’ll watch the film and, I promise you, I will figure it out.”

Injury report — 6:45 p.m.

Celtics: Late Saturday afternoon, the Celtics said center Robert Williams would be out for Game 3 because of left knee soreness, a problem that has left him in and out of the lineup throughout the playoffs.

Heat: The Heat provided this update via Twitter on Saturday afternoon: Coach Spo says both Kyle Lowry (hamstring) and P.J. Tucker (knee) will go through their routines with the intent to play in tonight’s Game 3 vs the Celtics.

On Friday, the Heat’s injury report was as follows: Kyle Lowry (hamstring), P.J. Tucker (knee), Max Strus (hamstring), and Gabe Vincent (hamstring) are all listed as questionable to play in tomorrow’s Game 3 vs the Celtics.

By the numbers — 6:30 p.m.

A comparison of a few key metrics (season averages), per NBA.com:

Points in the paint: Miami 45.7, Boston 38.9

Fast break points: Boston 13.3, Miami 11.1

Second-chance points: Miami 15.0, Boston 12.2

Another compelling stat: According to basketball-reference.com’s effective field goal percentage, which adjusts for the added value of three-pointers, the Celtics are at .580 while the Heat are at .524.

Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang. Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn. Scott Thurston can be reached at scott.thurston@globe.com.