Miami Heat's Game 2 comeback win is tied for the largest in the franchise's playoff history, sparked by a huge third quarter where they outscored the Celtics 37-17.
"They outplayed us and it was really unacceptable on our behalf," Kemba Walker said postgame about the third quarter.
While Bam Adebayo took care of the offence, leading the way 15 points in the period, the team as a whole took responsibility on the defensive end.
Over the course of the entire second half, where the Heat outscored the Celtics 59-41, Miami's zone defence was the talk of the game.
The Heat have allowed 41 points over 48 possessions playing zone through 2 games.- Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) September 18, 2020
The 0.85 points per possession against zone is well below the 0.98 ppp the Celtics have averaged this postseason in the half court. @SynergySST with the intel! @Jammer2233 🎥 @MiamiHEAT pic.twitter.com/yooIxVOJsC
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged 'it's a hard zone to play against' but after seeing some success against the zone in Game 1, he told reporters post-game that they would sure go to back to look at whether it was something technical, pace-related, or their execution that let them down in Game 2.
However, he capped off his comments on the zone by saying 'This isn't about zones and defences or offences. We just need to be better.'
MORE: Seven Observatiosn from Miami's 17-pt comeback Game 2 win
While the Celtics were struggled to break down the Heat's defence late in the game, their head coach Erik Spoelstra simply credited the second-half performance to 'just being more committed'.
Erik Spoelstra: "I know everybody wants to talk about a scheme, but for us, it's disposition, it's effort. Making multiple efforts regardless of the scheme."- Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) September 18, 2020
Maybe the coaches are downplaying it but the Heat have built a reputation, in the regular season, of executing a great zone defense. Plus, numbers don't lie:
The Celtics had 5 made shots and 5 turnovers on 25 plays against the Heat's zone defense in the 2nd half.- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 18, 2020
"Everybody is on a string," Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo said postgame about the zone. "The thing about zone [is] you got to communicate. That's what we love about zone, it makes us communicate. We were just getting our job done."
As a result of the defence in the second half, the perimeter duo of Jimmy Butler (3) and Jae Crowder (2) finished with five of their seven steals during that span. They combined for seven of the team's 11 steals for the game. While Butler had all of his three second-half steals in the final four minutes, Crowder finished with a game-high +12 in his 37 minutes of play.
3 STEALS in the final 4 MINUTES of Game 2 for @JimmyButler! 🔒🔒🔒- NBA (@NBA) September 18, 2020
ECF Game 3 ⏩ Saturday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN pic.twitter.com/PsRi1KV48g
The Celtics must find an answer to the Heat's zone defence. They simply cannot allow it to have a similar stranglehold on their offence moving forward as they're already in a 0-2 hole - one that only six teams have climbed out of at the Conference Finals stage in NBA postseason history.
Historically, Boston is 2-15 when down 0-2 in playoff series. Their two comebacks were in the 1969 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and in the first round of the 2017 playoffs against the Chicago Bulls. Will we see a third 0-2 comeback by the C's, this time to book their first NBA Finals spot in a decade?
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