Heat in your comfort zone
Zone defenses have strengths and can disrupt an offense if implemented correctly. It allows you to block entry to the perimeter, limit drives, cut off passing lines… It’s also less physically demanding than individual defense.
With injuries mounting, the Heat opted for a 2-3 zone defense on 18.4% of their defensive sequences. The number may seem insignificant, but it is a record. According to SynergySports statistics provided by the Miami Herald, no team has used a zone defense as much in nearly 15 years.
Unheard of in the NBA
Miami held a league record 1,053 zone defenses in 2018/19. If he keeps up this pace, the 2022/23 Heat version could have 1366 by the end of the campaign! For Max Strus, the method has worked pretty well so far.
“It’s working. We’ve been able to get a hold on that by actively forcing the opponent to make tough shots. That’s been a good thing. We’ve got guys who pride themselves on defending well, whether it’s man-to-man or zone defense. We’re going to try to hold on no matter what. That’s for us. it’s good, we will continue to work.”
Max Strus is definitely not wrong in the numbers. On Wednesday night in Toronto, the Heat limited Toronto to an average of 0.73 points per 11 possessions in zone defense. On the season, Miami is allowing just 0.81 points per possession in zone defense.
Even on the 3-point shot, which is considered a weakness of zone defense, opponents have no success against the Heat 2-3: 24.5% against the zone, 40.6% against the guard.
“It works well because it’s unconventional in this league”Gabe Vincent adds. “Many don’t intend to do it, just because of the meaning. Everyone takes pride in defending their player. It’s not like it’s unpleasant, but it doesn’t really happen. This is different. Because our zone is not a conventional zone, our competitors have difficulty in navigating. It’s changed a bit, it’s a bit different and it’s evolved since I’ve been here. This creates a different challenge that you don’t see every night.
Generally insufficient protection
The problem is that this relative trademark of zone defense is not enough. The Floridians don’t have a good overall record, and Miami, despite their good streak in the region, lost their game in Toronto and are currently ranked 18th in the league in defense.
For Erik Spoelstra, the Heat’s start will indeed come through the defense, but more through attitude, be it zone or individual, than the possible play systems used.
“The talent is so high, the quality of passing, the variety of attacks… Regardless of the system, you have to put in a lot of effort, do the hard things, the fundamentals, all the little things that make it. it is possible to build a high-level stable and reliable defense. We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress. “We have to continue to work and improve, whether it’s man-to-man or in the zone.”– concluded the technician.
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