Celtics need Jayson Tatum to impact Game 4 against Heat

Jayson Tatum has a sore neck after Game 3 and is not a member of the Miami Heat.

After an underwhelming performance, the host Boston Celtics desperately need their star forward to get back in shape as they try to reach the Eastern Conference finals with a two-game victory on Monday night.

Tatum never found form in 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 committed a whopping 16 turnovers in the series. He was out of the game briefly in the fourth quarter of Game 3 when he fell to the ground with a turnover and sprain from a stinger in his neck and right shoulder.

“My neck was stuck in a weird position,” Tatum said. “Obviously I went downstairs and felt some pain and discomfort in my neck and arms and went to my back. I checked it and started to feel better and the doctor checked it and did some tests and decided to give it a shot.”

Tatum is listed as likely to play on Monday. In reality, the Heat are facing a bigger injury predicament.

Miami standout forward Jimmy Butler missed the second half of Saturday’s game with inflammation in his right knee.

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said training staff called Butler. The team listed Butler as problematic on Sunday.

After averaging 35 points in the first two games, Butler scored eight in 20 minutes in Game 3.

It would be a huge loss if Butler doesn’t play on Monday.

“It’s something we have to figure out on the drawing board,” guard Max Struth said of the possibility of not having Butler. “Obviously, losing a big guy like that is huge. We’ll figure it out. We have a lot of people in this locker room who are willing and able to step up, and we have a great coaching staff that puts us in a good position.”

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

After averaging just 8.0 points in the first two games, Adebayo was aggressive in Game 3, finishing with 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Adebayo took just 10 shots in his first two games, going 15 of 22.

Heat forward PJ Tucker said Adebayo’s performance opened up the entire court for the team.

“We need Bam to be aggressive and play for himself and others,” Tucker said. “The way our team is built, he brings out the best in everyone. His versatility opens everything up for everyone. Offensive rebounding, he’s so powerful.”

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

Although the Celtics cut their lead to one point in the fourth quarter, it was a disappointing night for Jaylen Brown, who contributed a playoff-high 40 points.

“We didn’t show the same intensity as they did as a unit, and it showed that,” Brown said. “Their performances were all about urgency. On the defensive end, 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 get his services on Monday, and he is listed as questionable.

Boston point guard Marcus Smart was also knocked down after spraining his right ankle in the third quarter. Smart left briefly and was listed as suspicious before returning.

In addition to Butler, Miami listed five other players in question: Tucker (knee), Struth (hamstring) and guards Tyler Herro (groin), Kyle Lowry (hamstring) and Garcia Bvincent (hamstring).

A good look for the Celtics saw forward Al Horford add 20 points and 14 rebounds. Horford is counting on his team to play better Monday.

“Coach (Ime) Udoka has done a great job of us adjusting, especially in the playoffs,” Horford said. “We saw a problem that needed to be solved, so let’s figure it out, put it together, and move on.”

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

“Jimmy was a warrior, Tyler was a warrior,” Lowry said. “But we have to continue to focus on what we’re doing as a team (Saturday night) and hopefully these guys will come back and be ready for the next game.”

–Field level media

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