The Miami Heat love bubble playoff games — the Heat are 10-1 in the NBA’s self-created, concentrated basketball environment (and the one loss was by three in overtime to Milwaukee).
Miami also loves its zone defense, something it broke out regularly during the regular season but sat on and didn’t show in the first two rounds of the playoffs (literally zero zone defensive possessions against the Pacers and Bucks, according to Synergy Sports). In Game 2, they went to it for 36 possessions, most in the second half.
The Boston Celtics were thrown off by the zone, scoring 17 points in the third quarter, shooting 4-of-14 from three in the second half, and watching Jimmy Butler make plays like this.
And this, reading a Brad Stevens pet out of bounds lob play to seal the win.
Miami came from 17 down to beat Boston 106-101, giving the Heat a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is Saturday.
After the game, there was reported yelling by Marcus Smart and throwing of things in the Boston locker room.
“Guys were emotional… after a hard loss,” Boston coach Brad Stevens delicately put it.
The Boston coach also wasn’t buying into talk of the Miami zone defense being the story of the night.
“This isn’t about zones and defenses or offenses. We just need to be better,” Stevens said.
Boston did do better in the first half. After getting outscored by 22 in the paint in Game 1, the Celtics came out in Game 2 and attacked the rim, brought Enes Kanter and his inside scoring off the bench early, shot 10-of-13 at the rim, and won the points in the paint battle 32-18 in the first half.
Then in the second half, with the Heat often in a zone, the Celtics just tried to shoot over the top of it rather than get into the middle of it.
Miami just kept making shots and making plays. Goran Dragic led all Heat players with 25, Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Duncan Robinson had 18 going 6-of-12 from three (and keeping Miami close in the first quarter).
Boston had 23 from Kemba Walker, who bounced back with a strong offensive game after a rough first game of this series. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each had 21.
The Celtics are by no means out of this series, but right now they are not executing their game plan with the grit and intensity the Heat bring.
Boston needs to bring the fire they showed in the locker room postgame to the court in Game 3, or the Celtics will find themselves in a hole they cannot get out of.