Boston Celtics: 2012Game2
MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he wasn't quite sure how his defense was faring at halftime because the Heat were generating so many transition buckets off his team's turnovers that Boston never really had much of a chance to set up its defense.
But with the Heat shooting nearly 70 percent from the floor and boasting a 20-point cushion late in the third quarter Tuesday, something had to change. So less than seven full quarters into the 2011-12 season, Rivers dipped into his bag of tricks and decided to switch to a rarely seen zone defense.
Mind you, the Celtics have thrived off their help defense system build off a man-to-man backbone during the Big Three era. In fact, the Celtics played zone defense on a mere 1.8 percent of all plays during the 2010-11 season, according to ESPN Stats and Info. But Boston was in desperate need of something to change the momentum of Tuesday's game against the Heat, so zone it was.
The result? The Heat shot just 28.6 percent and averaged a measly 0.54 points per play against the zone (as opposed to 61.9 percent and 1.17 points per play against man coverage).
"I love our team, I will say that. I love the way they fight," Rivers said. "We’ve been working on that zone since the beginning of training camp, [but] never shown it [in games]. I told them at some point it was going to get us back into a game because no one thinks we’ll ever play zone. It did, it was terrific tonight. It kind of pushed [the Heat] back on their heels, so that part of it worked. But we had such a big hole to fight back, it was difficult."
The Celtics whittled Miami's lead to a single possession twice in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. But even against the zone, the Heat produced a few big shots, most notably rookie Norris Cole stepping up with two big jumpers down the stretch.
"The only mistake we made out of zone -- and, listen, they were 6 for [21 against it], we’ll take that -- the six [shots] that they made were dribble-drive [penetration]. Not only just Cole, but Dwyane [Wade]. Just because you’re in a zone, someone still has to guard the ball. And that’s what we kept telling them. That’s where we failed. That’s the only part. Kevin Eastman put [the zone] in on the first day [of camp] and we’ve been working on it. But you can see that’s the one area, because we have the guys square, even Cole, but we just let him beat us off the dribble. That’s an area that’s very fixable. And that’s the area where they beat us."
The Heat finished the game shooting 56 percent from the floor, the third-highest regular-season field goal percentage by an opponent in the Big Three era. Hop HERE to see the previous top games, headlined by the Raptors, who shot 58 percent in a 114-112 triumph over Boston on Jan. 23, 2008.
MIAMI -- Rapid reaction after the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics, 115-107, on Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena:
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
The Celtics improbably rallied from a 20-point, third-quarter hole to twice make it a one-possession game with less than two minutes to play, but Heat rookie guard Norris Cole made a pair of clutch jumpers to prevent Boston from rallying any closer. LeBron James scored a team-high 26 points with six rebounds and five assists, while Dwyane Wade kicked in 24 points with eight assists. Ray Allen scored a game-high 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting for Boston, while Rajon Rondo added 22 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds in another monster effort.
The Heat shot a blistering 65.7 percent in the first half (23-of-35, including 5-of-6 beyond the 3-point arc) while scoring 69 points and building a 15-point cushion at the intermission. That lead ballooned early in the third quarter as the Heat flirted with 70 percent from the field. The Celtics shifted to a zone defense in the third quarter that aided their rally, but the Heat ultimately shot 56 percent (42-of-75) -- the third highest mark in their big three era.
OFFICIALLY A PROBLEM
For the second time in as many games, referees made themselves a storyline. Olandis Poole drew Doc Rivers' ire early and often for what Boston's coach thought was uneven whistles, particularly in the first half. The Heat generated 24 first-half free throws behind 15 foul calls against the Celtics (Boston shot 15 free throws on nine personal fouls on Miami). Rondo got T'd up by Poole in the first half and Rivers finally boiled over in the third quarter, even as Boston trimmed its deficit to single digits.
TURNOVERS A BIGGER PROBLEM
The Celtics committed 15 first-half turnovers leading to 23 points (the Heat turned the ball over 11 times, but for only 11 points). Boston couldn't control the officiating, but it could have been less sloppy with the ball (especially after coaches stressed valuing the ball, particularly against this team). For the game, Boston gave the ball away 24 times for 33 points.
Cole, selected one spot after JaJuan Johnson at No. 28 in June's draft, chipped in 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting with four assists and four rebounds.
WHAT IT MEANS
Boston has lost six of its past seven games against Miami (including a five-game series loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season). After winning three of four regular-season matchups last season, the Celtics know regular-season success isn't an indicator of postseason potential, but you get the feeling that Miami isn't exactly frightened by the idea of jousting with Boston given their recent success. That said, Boston's late rally might have reminded them they can never count out the Celtics.
The Celtics tackle the first of 19 back-to-backs (not including a back-to-back-to-back in April) this season Wednesday night with a visit to New Orleans that concludes a season-opening, three-game road trip. Boston, which will again be without captain Paul Pierce versus the Hornets, meets Detroit on Friday night in Boston in the home opener.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL reporter Field Yates covers expectations for Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' outlook, LeSean McCoy's injury and Alex Smith's contract negotiations with the Chiefs.
Play Podcast Buster Olney and Justin Havens discuss how teams that made major deals have fared since the deadline. Plus, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer on the strange circumstances caused by weather.