Celtics need Jayson Tatum to impact Game 4 vs. Heat

Field Level Media

May 23, 2022 at 4:33 pm.

Jayson Tatum had a pain in the neck after Game 3 instead of being one to the Miami Heat.

After a subpar performance, the host Boston Celtics badly need their star forward to regain his form as they try to even the Eastern Conference finals at two wins apiece on Monday night.

Tatum never found a groove during Saturday night’s 109-103 loss to the Heat. He made just 3 of 14 shots and committed six turnovers while being limited to 10 points.

Tatum has committed a whopping 16 turnovers in the series. He briefly left the game in the fourth quarter of Game 3 after falling to the floor while committing a turnover and writhing due to a stinger in his neck and right shoulder.

“My neck got caught in a weird position,” Tatum said. “Obviously I went down and felt some pain and discomfort in my neck and down my arm, and then went to the back. I got it checked on, and started to gain some feeling back and got it checked by the doctors and ran some tests and decided to give it a go.”

Tatum is listed as probable for Monday’s game. Realistically, it is the Heat facing a bigger injury dilemma.

Miami standout forward Jimmy Butler sat out the second half of Saturday’s game due to right knee inflammation. Butler will warm up with the intent to play in Game 4, the team said Monday.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the training staff made the call on Butler, who had eight points in 20 minutes in Game 3 after averaging 35 points over the first two games.

However, guard Tyler Herro has been ruled out with his groin injury.

It would rate as a huge loss if Butler can’t play Monday.

“That’s something we’re going to have to get to the drawing board and figure out,” guard Max Strus said of the possibility of not having Butler. “Obviously, losing a big piece like that is huge. We’ll figure it out. We have a lot of guys in this locker room that are willing and able to step up and we have a great coaching staff to put us in great situations.”

At least Miami has been reminded that it can rely on center Bam Adebayo.

After averaging just 8.0 points over the first two games, Adebayo was ultra aggressive in Game 3 and delivered 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Adebayo was 15-of-22 shooting after attempting just 10 shots over the first two games.

Heat forward P.J. Tucker said Adebayo’s huge performance opened the entire floor up for the squad.

“We need Bam to be aggressive and make plays for himself and for everybody else,” Tucker said. “The way our team is built, he triggers the most out of everybody. His versatility just opens everything up for everybody. Offensive rebounding, he’s such a force.”

Miami racked up 19 steals while forcing 24 Boston turnovers. The Heat never trailed and led by 26 early in the second quarter.

Though the Celtics cut the lead to one in the fourth quarter, it was a disappointing night in the view of Jaylen Brown, who poured in a personal-playoff high 40 points.

“We didn’t come out with the same intensity as them as a unit, and it showed,” Brown said. “They came out all connected with urgency. Defensively, they were more physical than us.”

Boston badly missed big man Robert Williams III (knee), who was ruled out shortly before the game. The Celtics hope to have his services on Monday and he is listed as questionable.

Boston point guard Marcus Smart also is banged up after sustaining a sprained right ankle in the third quarter. Smart left briefly before returning and is listed as questionable.

In addition to Butler, Miami listed four other players as questionable: Tucker (knee), Strus (hamstring) and guards Kyle Lowry (hamstring) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring). All are expected to play.

A good sight for the Celtics was seeing forward Al Horford contribute 20 points and 14 rebounds. Horford is counting on his team playing better Monday.

“Coach (Ime) Udoka has been doing a good job with us all year making adjustments, and especially in the playoffs from game-to-game,” Horford said. “We see things that we need to fix, so let’s figure it out, put it together, and move forward.”

Meanwhile, Miami will have a chance to take a 3-1 series lead on Monday and the task will be easier if Butler is available.

“Jimmy is a warrior, Tyler is a warrior,” Lowry said. “But we have to continue to stay focused on what we did as a group (Saturday night) and hopefully those guys will be back and ready to go next game.”