Celtics ready to use zone defense again


Celtics ready to use zone defense again

MIAMI For most of Boston's Game 1 loss to Miami, the Heat got any and every shot they wanted.

So as the fourth quarter rolled around and C's coach Doc Rivers had seemingly exhausted just about every tweak and twist he could to his team's leaky man-to-man coverage, he played his final card: the zone defense.

It didn't provide the kind of game-changing impact the Celtics would have liked, but it did at the very least provide enough of a disruption to the Heat's offensive flow to keep the game relatively close down the stretch.

So much so that Rivers made it clear afterward that the cameo appearance by the Celtics' zone defense was not going to be a one-night only performance.

"You'll see it," Rivers said when asked about its use throughout this series. "We like it. We've been working on zone all year even though we've played it probably five times, six times all year."

Said C's guard Keyon Dooling: "Our half court defense has to be better than it was (in Game 1) for us to have a chance at winning. But our zone defense, it can be very good for us to use in spurts."

Among the first times the Celtics used a zone this season, was back on December 28 when the C's faced the Miami Heat and lost, 115-107.

It was the first time the Celtics played zone for a significant period of time.

After the Dec. 28 loss, Rivers said his team used a zone defense on 23 possessions that night, limiting the Heat to scoring just six times.

"At some point, (the zone defense) was going to get us back in a game because no one things we'll ever play zone," Rivers said at the time. "It was terrific."

Much like Monday's loss, Miami was having its way with the Celtics defense until the zone, once again, threw Miami off stride.

The Heat shot 50 percent (36-for-72) from the field in Game One. But in the fourth quarter, Miami connected on 45 percent (9-for-20) of its shots which was the Heat's worst shooting quarter of the game, and the only one in which the Celtics played a fairly extensive bit of zone coverage.

It forced the Heat to rely more on its perimeter shooting which was for the most part not very good.

Miami connected on just 20 percent (5-for-25) of its 3-pointers, and that tally includes Mike Miller making both of his attempts.

"We believe it (zone defense) will be effective in this series," Rivers said. "But when you're down 16 or 18, you're kind of caught, do you use it or wait for the next game, or do you show it and try to see what they run and then make adjustments to it? And that was the final decision we made. At that point when we ran it, I didn't know if we were going to make a run. I was trying to see really how we could tweak it to make it better."

The Celtics would prefer to rely on its man-to-man defense in order to be successful.

But this time of year, with so much riding on each and every game, the C's understand that you have to do anything and everything to give yourself a chance to win -- even if it means playing more zone defense.

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics will be a bit shorthanded for the first few games of the season with Marcus Smart being out with a left ankle sprain injury.
The Celtics were holding out slim hope that it would heal in time for tomorrow’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Smart confirmed a CSNNE.com report shortly after the injury on October 19 that it would likely be at least a couple weeks before he returned to action.
Following Tuesday’s practice, one in which Smart watched from the sidelines, he gave an update on his ankle injury which occurred in the Celtics’ last preseason game, a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks.
“A couple weeks, that’s the projection (of a return) they gave me,” Smart said. “They want to make sure we can limit this from happening again.”
Smart said the two-week timetable began from the time of his injury, which means it’s likely that he will miss the Celtics’ first four games of the season.
That’s a much rosier timetable than the left ankle sprain injury Smart suffered as a rookie which kept him sidelined for several weeks afterwards.
“It shouldn’t be too long,” Smart said. “Better safe than sorry.”
His absence will certainly have an impact on a Celtics defense that ranked among the NBA’s best a year ago, and has only gotten stronger with the addition of Al Horford.
But the Celtics have been a "next man up" team for since Stevens has been the head coach. With Smart out, that’s not going to change.
“That’ll be a great opportunity for someone else to step up in his place,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Boston guard Isaiah Thomas echoed similar thoughts.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next man has to step up,” Thomas said. “Guys have to take advantage of these opportunities.”
And for Smart, it’ll mean displaying his leadership skills from the sideline.
He’s totally comfortable taking on that role right now.
For his teammates, it might take a little bit of getting used to. Smart has been very loquacious on the Celtics sideline since suffering the injury.
“These last four days, he has been yelling … I told him to shut up a few times,” quipped Isaiah Thomas. “That’s just him, especially when he’s not playing. He’s very vocal.”
Terry Rozier, the likely benefactor in terms of minutes played due to Smart’s injury, agreed.
“He’s been sitting right there in that seat,” said Rozier, adding, “and he hasn’t shut up yet. It’s good; you’re going to need a guy like that who is going to talk to you. It’s like a guy, he says things … it’s like he’s been in the league 10 years. He knows his stuff.”
Smart’s knowledge bank includes understanding that his current injury will probably happen again at some point. The key isn’t dealing with the injury, but how you move forward from it.
“This isn’t my first ankle sprain and I know it won’t be my last,” Smart said. “I just have to let it heal on its own and let your body do what it does.”