Miami Heat Struggling Against Zone Defenses

by January 04, 2012

The Miami Heat’s Achilles’ Heel this season appears to be the zone defense, and they’ll have to figure out a way to overcome it all year long. From Sporting News: “If you want to find the genesis for the Miami Heat’s first loss of the season—to Atlanta at home on Monday—you might turn to Dwane Casey and Rick Carlisle last season. At that time, Casey was Carlisle’s ‘defensive coordinator’ in Dallas, and it was clear to both coaches that with the elderly legs on the Mavericks’ roster, they needed a way to mask their lack of quickness. Zone defense was the perfect antidote, and Dallas’ zone allowed the Mavs to keep fogeys like Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki on the floor for longer stretches. When Dallas beat Miami for last year’s championship, the Heat’s perimeter woes were exposed and the zone got partial credit. Fast forward to this year, when Celtics coach Doc Rivers, dealing not only with a well-aged roster but also with a compressed post-lockout schedule and a pair of young East rivals in Miami and Chicago that can easily outrun his bunch, took a page from the Mavs and instituted a zone scheme Boston could run at times. The Celtics played the Heat in the second game of the year and, after falling behind by 20, began trotting out the zone. They cut the lead to three before the Heat held on to win. Atlanta coach Larry Drew noticed. Though his team is younger, longer and more athletic than the Celtics, he still put the Hawks into a zone after they fell behind by 10 to the Heat. It was the Hawks’ zone that was primarily responsible for slowing down the Heat in the halfcourt, and after the game, coach Erik Spoelstra underscored that point. ‘We do need to get better and address it,’ Spoelstra said. ‘They went to the zone and we got out of our rhythm, and what was disappointing was it affected us and our concentration from that point on. We will get better at it. This is something we need to have a breakthrough with.’ There is no reason to overreact, of course. It’s one loss, and there are 60 more games to play, for a team that, like everyone else, had just two preseason games to prepare for the year. That sort of logic has never been enough to stop an overreaction when it comes to Miami, and the Heat’s trouble with zone defenses figures to pop up as a storyline whenever they struggle against any defense that is not man-to-man, much like their problems in late-game situations last year.”