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.
Although the Celtics eventually came out of a 26-point hole, the Miami Heat held on to take a 2-1 lead over Boston going into Monday’s Game 4 at TD Garden.
A win there is essential for the Celtics or they will have to travel to Miami and try to fight back from a 3-1 deficit in order to keep their Finals hopes alive. If they open the game like they did on Saturday, it will be a tough task.
Here’s everything you need to know for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals:
1. Jayson Tatum, Celtics, injured, can he bounce back?
Several Celtics picked up injuries on 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 scored 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 finally returning. The Celtics have listed him as likely for Game 4.
Assuming he gets back on the floor, Tatum will have to step it up significantly. Tatum finished with 10 points on Saturday, had 3 of 14 tough shots from the field and didn’t score a field goal in the second half. He also committed six turnovers.
“Honestly, I have to play better. I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight,” Tatum said, via The Associated Press on Saturday. “It’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 no doubt need on Monday night.
2. Finally, Bam Adebayo has arrived
It took him a few games before Bam Adebayo showed up for the Heat in Game 3.
Adebayo wasted 31 points with 10 rebounds in Saturday’s win and shot an impressive 15 of 22 from the field. His exit was much needed, as Jimmy Butler left at halftime with a knee injury. Additionally, he ended a slump after struggling to shoot in Games 1 and 2.
Adebayo shot a combined 10 times in the first two games of the series and didn’t make much of an impact, especially in Boston’s blowout Game 2 win.
“Tonight we needed the score 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 bit gnarly there and when it happened we were able to send the ball to Bam and get something cohesive.
If Boston can shut down Adebayo again, the Celtics will be in a great position to even the series. That, based on how Game 3 unfolded, is almost a necessity for the Celtics to get the win.
3: Jimmy Butler intends to play with a knee injury
Jimmy Butler left Game 3 at halftime on Saturday evening with inflammation of the knee. 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 “is not considered serious,” Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported on Saturday night, but Butler was still listed as questionable for Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
Despite, Haynes reported that Butler intended to play, something the Heat will likely need to take a 3-1 series lead. Butler has averaged 28.1 points and 7.2 rebounds so far in the playoffs, which is much better than his regular season numbers. He missed Game 5 of their season opener with the Atlanta Hawks with a knee problem, but has been fine since.
The Heat have listed several other players as questionable. Tyler Herro is out with a groin injury, Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus all have hamstring issues and PJ Tucker has a knee injury.
While it’s still doable, the Heat will be much better off Monday if they can have their full roster available. Otherwise, things could stall as the series returns to Miami.