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.

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