Celtics

Celtics Talk Podcast: How C's can solve Heat's zone defense

Celtics

Who knew a common defensive wrinkle would give the Boston Celtics such major trouble?

The Celtics led by as many as 17 points in Thursday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat. Then Miami switched to a zone in the second half and Boston suddenly couldn't buy a bucket, scoring just 17 points on 12 shot attempts in the third quarter.

The C's watched their lead crumble as their offense stagnated en route to a 106-101 loss that put them in an 0-2 series hole.

So, why couldn't they score against Miami's zone, and what should they do in Game 3 on Saturday to fix the issue? NBC Sports Boston's Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely and Chris Forsberg discussed Thursday night on the latest Celtics Talk Podcast.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Celtics blow 17-point lead to Heat in Game 2; locker room gets heated following the loss | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I think they're overlooking the process," Blakely said. "When they go back and look at the film, they're going to see possession after possession after possession, they have the ball in the hands of one of their guys like a Marcus Smart at the free throw line, and Bam (Adebayo) is dropping back.

"As soon as Marcus gets the ball at the free throw line and it's zone, they're looking to kick it back out, rather than take a free throw jump shot that's literally uncontested."

Blakely -- a Syracuse alum who has watched his Orange play plenty of zone defense over the years -- then offered a simple solution.

 

"I've seen this plenty of times, because it happens to Syracuse damn near every time they play Pitt or something like that," Blakely said. "The big man gets the ball at the free throw line and knocks down a couple of shots, then that middle guy on the back line of the zone starts to creep up, and that opens up those two angles where you can get someone in a post play or an action cutting to the basket.

"It's not that complicated. It really isn't."

Forsberg: Celtics need to save their fight for on the court

Forsberg also noted the Heat's zone defense wasn't exactly airtight, referencing a possession where Tatum drove to the basket for an uncontested layup as Miami's defenders passed him off.

Those easy buckets were few and far between Thursday, though, which puzzled Forsberg.

"They act like they've never seen a zone defense in their life," Forsberg said. "Against Toronto, they actually played really well against it and exploited it when (the Raptors) went to it. Sometimes (the defense) goes to zone and it's a basic 2-3, and (the Celtics) don't know where to bust it. That comes down to fundamentals.

"It's not like they're going over that in practice. It's not like they're not prepared for this. And yet their points per possession against zone has been terrible."

Draper, Blakely and Forsberg also discussed the Celtics' inability to hold double-digit leads, a reported blowup in Boston's locker room after the game and whether the C's can climb back in this series.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast on your favorite podcast app or watch it on YouTube below.