Celtics find success with fourth-quarter zone defense

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Celtics find success with fourth-quarter zone defense

MIAMI When training camp began, the Boston Celtics tinkered with playing some zone defense.

What the heck, they thought. You never know when it just might come in handy.

Even though the Celtics fell short, 115-107, at Miami, the team's zone defense was certainly something the C's can build on in the future.

According to coach Doc Rivers, his team used a zone defense on 23 possessions, with the Heat scoring just six times.

"I told them at some point, the zone defense was going to get us back in a game because no one thinks we'll ever play zone," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "And it did. It was terrific."

For the Heat, it was indeed a sight they did not see coming.

"That's the first time we've seen zone other than practice," said Miami's Chris Bosh. "We can't expect to just come right out and destroy it."

As well as the Celtics' zone worked - they trailed by as many as 15 points in the fourth, but were within 3 with 91 seconds to play - Rivers saw room for improvement.

"The six possessions they made baskets, were dribble-drives," Rivers said. "Not only Norris Cole, but Dwyane Wade. Just because you're in a zone, someone still has to guard the ball. That's what we kept telling them."

And while Rivers recognizes the flaws to his team's zone defense, he doesn't believe fixing it will be a major issue.

"We just let them beat us off the dribble," Rivers said. "That's an area that's very fixable. That's an area . . . that's where they beat us."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

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Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”