The Miami Heat‘s (2-1) victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 on Saturday, May 22, was huge not only because the 109-103 win happened on the road at the TD Garden, but it was also a much-needed confidence boost following the team’s embarrassing Game 2 loss.
Game 3 saw the return of starting point guard Kyle Lowry, and thankfully, forward P.J. Tucker was able to play despite leaving Game 2 with an injury. However, the Heat saw two key players go down in Boston on Saturday night.
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While Jimmy Butler didn’t return to play in the second half due to right knee inflammation, the reason why Tyler Herro, the NBA’s 2022 Sixth Man of the Year, didn’t play during the final 8:11 of the game was not explained.
Herro, who was absolutely dominant offensively during the regular season, has been struggling during the postseason. During Game 4, in 20 minutes of play, the 22-year-old put up just eight points, two rebounds, and three assists.
When Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra pulled Herro to play guard Victor Oladipo in the fourth quarter, it was largely assumed the switch was made due to the young boy wonder having another off night during a game that felt must-win.
NBA analyst Dan Le Batard tweeted on Saturday night, “The balls on this Heat team, man. Withstood Smart return, Tatum return and a 30-12 free throw disparity on the road. Withstood Butler injury and Herro playing so poorly he was benched. Can’t believe they won that game. — Dan.”
However, on Sunday, May 22, Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman reported that Herro’s late-game absence was due to “an apparent quadriceps issue.”
“Tyler had to come out just so the trainers could see what it was,” Spoelstra said. As to whether or not Herro could’ve returned, “It depends on who you ask. If you ask Tyler, yes. And the trainers didn’t say definitely no.”
Hopefully, Herro will be back for Game 4. “This is not gamesmanship,” Spoelstra noted. “It’s the playoffs. Guys are putting themselves out there.”
There’s High Optimism Butler Can Return for Game 4
Without knowing the true severity of Herro’s injury, it’s hard to know whether or not he’ll be ready to go for Game 4, but with Butler, there’s a strong likelihood the wing will be back.
“He’s been able to manage this,” Spoelstra said of Butler’s knee issue during the postgame conference. “I think the next two days will be really important, obviously. “But he’s a great competitor. Even when he’s out there, he was able to be efficient and he was able to defend. His competitiveness will overtake everything and he’s going to put it all out there. At halftime, really, the trainers made the call [to hold him out].”
On Sunday, Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson revealed another update. Jackson tweeted, “There is optimism on Butler for tomorrow but no certainty on availability… Herro didn’t return last night largely due to leg injury; Heat suggested he thought he could play but trainers wanted look at it.”
With Butler out in the second half, Heat center Bam Adebayo stepped up big time on Saturday night, putting up 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four steals, and one block. Considering Adebayo, score a total of 16 points during the first two games against the Celtics, this aggressive pop in his offensive game was incredible to watch.
“He’s a winning player,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo after Game 4. “And he really is the heart and soul of our group… Tonight we needed the scoring and we needed kind of that offensive punch early on.”
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka credited Adebayo’s breakout performance for the Heat’s win. “We also talked about Adebayo struggling this series, he’s going to come out extra aggressive,” Udoka said. “Put his head down, we didn’t match it.”
Heat/Celtics Playoff Schedule
Following Game 3 in Boston, here’s the full schedule for the Heat/Celtics series:
Game 4: Monday, May 23, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Game 5*: May 25: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 6*: May 27, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 7*: May 29: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN