After blowing a 17-point halftime lead in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Heat, there was reportedly a blowup in the Celtics’ locker room following the loss.
Marcus Smart and other Celtics players were arguing in the locker room, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
Smart reportedly screamed “y’all on that bull—” to teammates before heading into the bathroom. Washburn also reported that multiple players were arguing for several minutes and that objects were thrown.
Kemba Walker downplayed the incident to reporters moments later.
“It was nothing,” Walker said. “It was nothing. I’m not speaking about it.”
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) September 18, 2020
Tatum expanded a bit more on the team’s feeling after going down 2-0.
“We’re frustrated,” Tatum said. “That’s team sports. We’re not supposed to be happy we’re down 0-2. It was nothing [out of the] ordinary. Just talking about the game. It’s cool, gotta get ready for the next one.”
“What happens in the locker gotta stay in the locker room,” Tatum later added. “We’re not supposed to come out here and talk about what we talked about as a team after a win or a loss. That’s why we go in the locker room and talk to each other, whether we win or lose. That’s that.”
“Guys were emotional after a hard game, a hard loss,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said.
Smart reportedly left the arena not long after and didn’t speak to the media after Thursday’s loss.
As for what happened in the game itself, the two common questions that Stevens, Tatum and Walker faced were, “What happened in that third quarter?” (which saw the Celtics get outscored 37-17), and why they were struggling against the Heat’s zone defense.
Stevens thought his team wasn’t connected during the third quarter.
“We pulled apart and we didn’t play well. And they did a good job,” Stevens said. “We’re not beating this team if we’re not completely connected on both ends of the court. So, we’ve got to get back at being that, which we did at times but right now they’re a better team and we’re going to have to fight to get back into this series.”
Tatum simply said that the Heat “outplayed us, long story short.”
The Celtics did come back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a five-point lead with 4:25 remaining. However, the Heat closed the game on a 15-7 run to give them a 106-101 win.
While the Celtics weren’t able to hold the small lead, Stevens liked the way his team played down the stretch.
“I thought that once we did that, we were really playing really well,” Stevens said. “Dragić hit the two contested shots over Theis, one of them at the very end of the shot clock when he threw it in. We did a lot of good things in the last seven minutes. We just shot ourselves in the third.”
The Heat broke out their zone defense for much of the second half, allowing just 41 points after the Celtics scored 60 in the first half.
Stevens tipped his cap to the Heat, but did reflect that the Celtics were able to handle the zone much better in Game 1.
“It’s a hard zone to play against,” Stevens said. “We did play well against it in Game 1. We played with way better pace than we did tonight. So, we’ll go back and we’ll look at it, figure out if it was a technical thing or a pace thing or an execution thing or a not-as-focused-on-the-important-stuff thing.”
In the 25 plays the Celtics had against the Heat’s zone defense in the second half, they only made five shots and committed five turnovers, according to ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry.
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
Tatum was noticeably one of those players affected by the zone. He committed five turnovers and saw his shot attempts cut in half from Game 1 (24) to Game 2 (12) because he wasn’t able to get open looks. He said that he has to be “ready to shoot” and be “able to shoot over defenders, any daylight I get.”
“I wish. I knew,” Tatum said on how to combat the team’s struggles against the zone defense. “I gotta look at the film. We’ve got to have better spacing, I think. A lot of times we just weren’t in the right spots. Whether it’s against a man or a zone, that’s not going to help. You’ve always got to have the right spacing in order to create good movement (and) a good shot. Spacing messed up against a good team, a good defensive team.”
The Celtics have two days to figure out how to beat the Heat’s zone defense or else they’ll go down 3-0 after Saturday’s Game 3.
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