Heat

Zone Defense Mystifies Heat’s Offense

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MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 2: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket during the fourth quarter against Willie Green #33 of the Atlanta Hawks on January 2, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – JANUARY 2: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket during the fourth quarter against Willie Green #33 of the Atlanta Hawks on January 2, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The 2-3 zone defense has carried Syracuse University to national championships and Final Fours for years. Now, it is proving to be one of the toughest things the Miami Heat has to deal with for the rest of the season.

“We got off to a terrific start, offensively to get what we want,” Spoelstra said after the 100-92 loss to the Hawks. “And then we dealt with what we’ll probably see quite a bit from here and we do need to get better and address it: they went to the zone.”

The zone defense in basketball essentially packs the paint and tries to make it harder for slashers to truly make an impact in a game. It’s especially effective if the opponent doesn’t have players moving consistently to the basket.

Offenses facing a zone defense have a choice of either working the ball around the court quickly and trying to hit players flashing to the basket, or settle for three-point shots and other long-range jump shots from the perimeter.

It’s also key to have plenty of offensive spacing when you start to attack the zone defense, regardless of what style you choose to attack it with.

The second-half of that offensive equation is dangerous because if your shooters go cold; the game can get away from you very quickly.

Given the fact that the Heat have two of the best players in NBA history in attacking the basket, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade; it would appear that the Heat have the perfect answer to the zone defense. But things didn’t quite go the way the Heat wanted on Monday against the Hawks.

According to ESPN.com, the Heat faced the zone defense 25 times in the 100-92 loss against the Hawks. Out of those attempts, the Heat managed to score just 11 times. Further, the Heat have faced the zone defense 50 plays this year and only scored 37 points against it, according to ESPN.

The Heat’s offense is built around getting out into transition and moving the ball up and down the court.

It’s akin to the wide-open offense the Oregon Ducks football team runs. But, when Oregon had to deal with smashmouth teams, they had to adjust to continue putting points on the board.

That’s where the Heat is as January basketball is underway.

The Heat will look to improve against the zone defense as the season continues, but now that the blueprint has been revealed; the Heat will face much more zone defense this season.

Still, if the Heat figure out the zone quickly, it will be one more tool that teams can’t employ against the Big Three and the Heat. So for Heat opponents, employ the zone at your own risk.

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