Heat vs Celtics: How ‘special’ Kyle Lowry changed everything for Miami in Game 3 win

Heat vs Celtics: How 'special' Kyle Lowry changed everything for Miami in Game 3 win
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Kyle Lowry wasn’t the star of the show in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was Bam Adebayowhose 31 points (out of 15 for 22 shots!) were essential for a miami heat team that was without Jimmy Butler in the second half on Saturday. But while Lowry scored a modest 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting, his fingerprints were all over Miami’s 109-103 victory.

His most memorable play came late in the fourth quarter. It was classic Lowry: sneaky, smart, and totally on the spur of the moment. With 48 seconds remaining, the Boston Celtics were still alive, if only barely; lost by seven points after a successful free throw, Grant Williams kicked the ball into Smart Marcusbut Lowry rushed between them, got his hands on the ball, stopped it from going out of bounds and found Miami’s Max Strus cut to the basket for a lay-up. Lowry squealed in jubilation when Boston called a timeout:

Hours before Lowry threw that dagger, he set the tone. On the Heat’s first-ever possession, he pushed the ball on an offensive rebound and set up Strus for a transition 3. All season, Lowry was the player most responsible for Miami’s impressive transition offense because games like this:

From the next possession, Boston pushed the ball back to the Heat. Lowry picked up a big man Al Horfordintroduced him to the post and made the first of his four interceptions:

A few possessions later, after a Horford layup, Lowry caught the Celtics napping with a forward pass to Butler for a layup, plus the foul.

This prompted Boston coach Ime Udoka to call his first timeout of the game. Udoka described Lowry as “the head of the snake” for Miami in terms of picking up the pace.

“That’s what he does,” Udoka said. “We talked about it before the game. It’s the impact he has on the game.”

After the waiting period, Jayson Tatum missed a runner and, four seconds later, Lowry cashed in a pull-up 3 in transition, giving Miami a 14-4 lead. It was 39-18 at the end of the quarter.

All season, Lowry has been the player most responsible for securing Heat transition opportunities. That’s especially important against the best half-court defense in the NBA. “They’re big, they’re aggressive,” Lowry said. “But for me it’s all about pace and giving us an easy look.” In the second quarter, he got a hockey assist on a dunk from Adebayo because he got rid of the ball the moment he caught it:

Lowry played 29 minutes, coming back from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for two games in the first round, four games in the second round and the first two games of the Conference Finals. He didn’t shoot well when he got to play in these playoffs, but he made some timely jumps in Game 3. When the Heat started the second half with a few empty possessions, Lowry knocked down his pull- up patented 3 left. When Smart returned from injury and cut Miami’s lead to 10 points, Lowry calmed the wild crowd down with a tough drop over Horford.

“He’s special,” Strus said. “Obviously his return helped, especially on a night where we lost JB. So having his leadership and playoff experience was huge for us to keep us grounded and to keep everything positive throughout everything. that. He’s spent a lot of time in those moments in his career, so having him here with us is huge.”

He’s a player who made six All-Star teams, won a gold medal, and scored 26 points in a game that won an NBA championship. From the start, however, Lowry has done much of his damage in what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra calls “the in-between games.” When Lowry senses an opportunity to attack, when his team needs him to improvise, when there’s a loose ball or a broken play, he tends to shake things up. On Saturday, his crunch time flight wasn’t even the only time he surprised Smart:

Lowry’s mere presence has given Miami a defensive boost, simply because Boston doesn’t target him the way they target him. Gabe Vincent. Offensively, the Heat needed all the play they could get – they weren’t so good at half court during the regular season, and with Duncan Robinson playing a lesser role Tyler Herro struggling and Butler unavailable after half-time, they had to find ways to survive. At times like this, it helps to have a playmaker who is constantly looking for small assets to exploit.

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