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Adebayo leads Heat to gritty 109-103 win to take 2-1 series lead over Celtics

Adebayo exploded for 31 points as the Heat hold on to lead despite missing Butler.

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the more extreme examples of intense Miami Heat playoff basketball, the No. 1-seeded team in the East continued to show their resolve and determination in an incredible and thrilling 109-103 Game 2 win over the host Boston Celtics to take a 2-1 series lead.

Jaylen Brown, who scored 40 points, cut the Heat’s lead to just one point after a three-pointer with just 2:40 to play but Miami responded — just like they did all night long — to steal back homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals and are now just two wins away from reaching the NBA Finals.

Making it all the more impressive was that the Heat were able to fend off every Celtics run in the second half without Jimmy Butler, who was ruled out at halftime with right knee irritation and finished with just eight points in 20 minutes. Any doubts that the team is too Butler-dependent during the playoffs were eased on a night in which Miami led the entire way thanks to timely contributions from Adebayo and several key players.

Max Strus had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists but no basket was more critical than the 3-pointer he nailed right after Brown’s triple cut the lead to one. For a team desperate to get their outside shooting back on track, Strus went 4-7 from deep and had his moments on defense as well.

Adebayo was the star tonight with an incredible performance, arguably his best Heat game ever with so much on the line. This is the Bam that Heat Nation was clamoring for, not only aggressive but putting the team on his shoulders and getting buckets his way and on his terms. He attempted a career-high 22 shots and yet he was still efficient by making 15 of them, in addition to 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals in 42 minutes.

As good as Gabe Vincent was in the starting lineup, Miami got a huge boost when their only pure point guard Kyle Lowry finally returned to action and immediately made his presence felt.

His playmaking was essential for the Heat’s hot start in which they scored twice as many points as Boston in a stunning 39-18 first quarter performance. Also returning from injury was PJ Tucker who had 17 points and seven rebounds while also helping to limit Jayson Tatum to just 10 points.

Butler wasn’t the only player lost to injury for the Heat, with Tyler Herro’s night ending early after struggling with his shot and overall being ineffective. Victor Oladipo (filling in admirably for Butler), Vincent and Strus helped pick up the slack though it was still a struggle for the Heat at times on the offensive end with Butler staying in the locker room.

Marcus Smart and Tatum also hobbled to the locker room tonight on two separate plays and later returned to the game with great fanfare. The injuries to Butler and Herro don’t appear to be serious and they are expected to return in time for the next game.

For as many times as Boston threatened to take over the game and steal the victory, Miami never lost the lead tonight and they did it on the defensive end by forcing turnovers, notching a franchise playoff-best 19 steals, and never allowing Tatum to get going. Miami would attempt several ill-advised long distance 3-pointers when the offense got stale in the fourth, but time and time again players like Oladipo would come up with strong defensive plays to kill Boston’s momentum.

With the victory, Miami now has four opportunities to win the two games needed to reach the Finals while Boston would have to win three of a possible four games to win the series.

Game 4 is Monday night in Boston.