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TV: ABC, 8:30 p.m. ET
BetMGM line: Celtics -6.5
At first glance Saturday, it looked like we were in store for a third straight blowout in the Eastern Conference finals.
Though the Celtics eventually climbed out of a 26-point hole, the Miami Heat held on to take a 2-1 series lead over Boston headed into Monday’s Game 4 at TD Garden.
A win there is critical for the Celtics, otherwise they’ll have to travel to Miami and try to battle out of a 3-1 deficit in order to keep their Finals hopes alive. If they open up the game like they did Saturday, that’s going to be a tough task.
Here’s everything you need to know for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals:
1. Can an injured Jayson Tatum, Celtics bounce back?
Several Celtics went down with injuries Saturday, including Marcus Smart — who left briefly before returning with what looked like a brutal ankle injury. Jaylen Brown and Al Horford led the way offensively as Brown put up 40 points in the loss and Horford added 20 with 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum struggled.
Tatum injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and left for the locker room for a few minutes before he eventually returned. The Celtics listed him as probable for Game 4.
Assuming he gets back on the floor, Tatum will have to significantly step it up. Tatum finished with 10 points Saturday, shot a tough 3-of-14 from the field and didn’t make a single field goal in the second half. He committed six turnovers, too.
“Honestly, I’ve got to play better. I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight,” Tatum said, via The Associated Press on Saturday. “That’s on me.”
A Tatum who is at full strength and playing like he did in the first two games — where he dropped 29 points and 27 points, respectively — is something the Celtics will undoubtedly need Monday night.
2. Finally, Bam Adebayo showed up
It took him a few games before Bam Adebayo showed up for the Heat in Game 3.
Adebayo dropped 31 points with 10 rebounds in Saturday’s win, and shot an impressive 15-of-22 from the field. His output was much needed, as Jimmy Butler left at halftime with a knee injury. Also it ended a slump after struggling to shoot in Games 1 and 2.
Adebayo shot 10 times combined in the first two games of the series, and didn’t have much of an impact — especially in Boston’s blowout win in Game 2.
“Tonight we needed the scoring and we needed that offensive punch early on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the win, via The Associated Press. “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.”
If Boston can shut down Adebayo again, the Celtics will be in great position to tie the series. That, based on how Game 3 went, is almost a necessity for the Celtics to get the win.
3: Jimmy Butler intends to play with knee injury
Jimmy Butler left Game 3 at halftime on Saturday night with knee inflammation. He played the first half normally, and had eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes, but it’s unclear when his knee started hurting or what caused it.
The injury “isn’t being considered serious,” Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported Saturday night, but Butler was still listed as questionable for Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
Despite that, Haynes reported that Butler intends to play, something the Heat will likely need in order to take a 3-1 series lead. Butler has averaged 28.1 points and 7.2 rebounds so far this postseason, both of which are far better than his regular-season numbers. He missed Game 5 of their opening-round series with the Atlanta Hawks due to a knee issue, but he has been fine since.
The Heat listed several other players as questionable. Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus all have hamstring issues and P.J. Tucker has a knee injury. Meanwhile, Tyler Herro will miss Monday night's game due to a groin injury, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.
While it’s still doable, the Heat will be much better off Monday if they can have their full roster available. Otherwise, things could be sitting tied up as the series shifts back to Miami.