NBA Eastern Conference finals Game 3: Heat's Bam Adebayo needs to respond vs. Celtics

·4-min read

TV: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET

BetMGM line: Celtics -6.5

Time for a close game?

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The first two games of the Eastern Conference finals have been blowouts. Now that the series is headed to Boston for the first time, it might finally be time for a close game.

Boston responded perfectly to an 0-1 series deficit on Thursday night. The Celtics rolled to a dominant 127-102 win in Game 2 to even the series. While Miami may have been stunned by the return of Marcus Smart and Al Horford, it’s hard to see Game 3 shaking out like Game 2, even with it taking place at TD Garden.

The Heat cruised to a big Game 1 win after holding the Celtics to 14 points in the third quarter. Jimmy Butler dropped 41 points in that win, which took place without Smart and Horford.

3 Things To Watch

1: Can the Heat slow down Marcus Smart?

Smart missed Game 1 with a foot sprain before he came out firing in Game 2.

Smart finished with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds on Thursday night, which made him the first Celtic to put up at least 20 points and 10 assists in a playoff game since Rajon Rondo (2012).

He also slowed down Butler, holding the Heat star to nine points on the 31 plays he defended him.

“I did not see that stat, but I’ll take it,” Smart told Yahoo Sports about the Rondo comparison. “That’s an awesome, awesome accomplishment. I’m just trying to do what I can to help my team win. These games are important.”

Though Smart is far from the only Celtic the Heat need to watch out for — Jayson Tatum scored 27 points and shot 8-of-13 from the field in Game 2, and Jaylen Brown added 24 points and eight rebounds — Miami will almost certainly be in trouble if Smart puts up a similar stat line Saturday night.

2: Where is Bam Adebayo?

The Heat have had two great performances from Butler in the East finals. Star center Bam Adebayo, however, has struggled.

Adebayo has 16 points and 13 rebounds through the first two games of the series and has taken just 10 total shots. That is, well, not great.

Adebayo averaged 19.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in the regular season, and was putting up 13 shots per contest. Only Butler and Tyler Herro have averaged more points and attempted more shots on the Heat.

It’s not necessarily something the Celtics are doing to him, either. Adebayo has been down from his regular-season average throughout the postseason, and he’s attempted more than 10 shots in only five of 13 playoff games. He has gone four straight games scoring no more than 12 points.

The Heat got away with it in Game 1, but Adebayo’s struggles stood out Thursday. Miami needs its big man to contribute far more in this series. Whether that’s on Adebayo needing to be more aggressive or on his teammates to set him up better, something has to change. Butler can't carry the Heat all by himself.

Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat
Heat center Bam Adebayo has struggled against the Celtics, and has put up only 10 shots all series. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

3: What about Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker?

Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker were listed as questionable for Game 3 as of Friday afternoon.

Lowry has been dealing with a hamstring injury for nearly the entire postseason. He has yet to play in the conference finals, and has played in just five of Miami's 13 playoff games this season. He last played in Game 4 in Round 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers, when he had six points and seven assists in 30 minutes.

Tucker went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of Game 2. He tried to play through it before he was pulled from the game in the third quarter. He finished with five points and four rebounds in 22 minutes on the night.

Tucker bypassed an MRI on his left knee Friday after swelling subsided and he intends to be available for Game 3, league sources told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.

The 37-year-old veteran is a key part of Miami’s defense and averaged 7.6 points in the regular season, then 8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds during the playoffs.

Both injured players are making the trip to Boston for the next two games of the series, which is a good sign. Lowry and Tucker would make a huge impact for the Heat, especially if they can be on the court for Game 3.