Celtics' zone defense a product of bad man-to-man


Celtics' zone defense a product of bad man-to-man

BOSTON The number one team in college basketball right now is the Syracuse Orange, a team that has employed some variation of a zone defense for years.

But the NBA is a different brand of basketball, one in which teams don't rely on the zone as their bread-and-butter defensive strategy.

The NBA season is just three games old for the Celtics (0-3), and the C's have played arguably more zone defense now than they have at any point under head coach Doc Rivers.

The reason?

Because their man-to-man defense has been horrible, something they hope to change on Friday in their home opener against Detroit.

"The only way we're playing it (zone defense), is if we look awful defensively," Rivers said.

The C's have used zone defense in each of the last two games, with mixed results.

Against the Heat, it helped trim Miami's 20-point lead down to just three points. But in the loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, many of the problems that led to the Celtics falling behind - dribble penetration, for example - were just as problematic in a zone defense as it was in the team's poor man-to-man coverage.

Rivers believes one of the big reasons for the poor zone defense against the Hornets, was fatigue.

"Back-to-back nights of that," Rivers said. "For long periods of time, just doesn't work."

As Celtics guard Keyon Dooling pointed out, zone defenses aren't entirely bad for the NBA as he pointed out that the current NBA champion Dallas Mavericks used zone defense at times during their journey towards the franchise's first NBA title.

"It's all about strategy," Dooling said. "Sometimes you have to junk the game up."

He added, "it's very relevant in our game now. And we want to get better at our zone as well."

But it's never going to become a staple of the C's defensive strategy.

Their focus now is to become a better man-to-man defense, viewing zone coverage as an unexpected wrinkle they can throw at teams occasionally to throw them off balance.

One of the challenges for the C's has been blending in the new faces with the veterans, and figuring out how to get everyone on board to understand what their role is defensively.

Players mean well, but developing that kind of continuity, that kind of trust, takes time.

"You don't get it overnight," said Celtics guard Ray Allen. "As a team, as an individual, we know who we are as individuals but still trying to claim our identity as a team. We hang our hats on playing defense and trusting each other, just having each others' backs. I think we're being tested, and early. Everything is not hunky-dory so far for us. Our backs are up against the wall, so we have to come out swinging."

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens shows confidence in Brown


Stars, studs and duds: Stevens shows confidence in Brown

Jaylen Brown made a costly turnover in the final minute that contributed to Boston’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

The fact that he was even in the game at that point speaks to not just his potential, but the level of confidence the rookie has already garnered from the Boston Celtics coaching staff.

Brown, who had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting on Thursday, turned the ball over with less than a minute to play and the Celtics trailing 101-99 at the time.

Moments after the turnover, Chicago’s Dwyane Wade drained a step-back 3-pointer that sealed the Bulls’ victory.

Disappointed with the game’s outcome, Brown acknowledged that it meant a lot to him for Stevens to have enough confidence in him to keep him on the floor down the stretch.

But with that faith comes added pressure for Brown to come through and deliver.

“It means I have to do better and try and execute for my team and earn everything I get,” Brown told reporters after the game. “I don’t want anything given to me just because I’m the number three pick in the draft.”

Stevens was asked about having Brown on the floor in the game’s closing seconds.

“He (Brown) was playing pretty well and I thought we were better off playing small,” Stevens said. “I wanted to keep Jaylen in there. I thought he did a lot of good things tonight.”

“Obviously that play didn’t go his way,” Stevens said.

On the play in question, Brown was matched up with Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic. Brown began to make a move, and eventually spun away from Mirotic and left his feet.

Brown was called for the turnover when he left his feet to make a pass, but didn’t release the ball until after he had landed – a traveling violation.

“I was looking for an outlet,” said Brown in explaining his late-game miscue. “I should have just shot the ball but I was thinking it was a bad shot. I probably should have just shot it. I just saw Mirotic on me, slower feet. Coach (Stevens) told me to drive him so I tried to be aggressive. I should have made a play.”

Brown added, “Just have to come out and execute, and play the game the right way. I want to make coach feel like he has a reason to put me out on the floor.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Thursday night’s game.



Dwyane Wade

The Chicago native gave his family and friends plenty to cheer about on Thursday. In his first game playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls, Wade had 22 points which included a back-breaking 3-pointer with 26 seconds to play that pretty much sealed the Bulls victory. Consider this: He made a total of seven 3-pointers all last season. He had four on Thursday.

Isaiah Thomas

For the second straight game, Thomas tallied 25 points and continued to shoot the ball extremely well. His 25 points on Thursday came on 10-for-15 shooting. He also had four assists and three rebounds.

Jimmy Butler

Butler was among the Chicago players who shot the ball much, much better from 3-point range than they usually do. He finished with a team-high 24 points which included him knocking down four of his six 3-point attempts.



Avery Bradley

Bradley provided a nice offensive complement to Thomas’ high scoring night, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Bradley also made his presence felt on the boards and as a distributor with six rebounds and five assists.

Nikola Mirotic

He may have lost out on a starting job to Taj Gibson, but Mirotic’s value to the Bulls is clear. Mirotic had 15 points off the bench, shooting 6-for-11 from the field in addition to nine rebounds.



Second-chance points

Boston’s only two games into the season, but second-chance points looks to be an issue with no clear-cut solution. For the second straight game, Boston was outscored by double digits in second-chance points. On Thursday, Chicago had an 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.