This weekend we got a victory after holding our opponent to 12 first half points en route to a 32-12 half time lead and a 65-52 victory. But as we headed into the locker room I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park. Playing great in the first half is a great feeling for a coach and a team, but also a very dangerous one. If you play the first half at a high level the players (and coaches) have a tendency to get a little complacent and take the gas off the pedal a little bit. And usually the other team is a little pissed off and comes out motivated (or they lay down). But if you take the foot off the gas and the other team takes it to heart, this is a recipe for disaster. Disaster didn’t strike in our game but they did get the lead to single digits midway through the 4th quarter before we finally pulled away.
Wether on O or on D a great half is tough to follow. Hoop is a game of flows and runs and what goes up comes back down. However an experienced coach like Doc Rivers was able to follow up a half in which they let up just 22 points to the Bucks with another stellar half and set a franchise record for allowing just 56 points in a win last night against the Bucks.
The Celtics were able to follow up a great half with another great half last night against the Bucks. A real sign that Doc Rivers knows how to keep his guys focused and motivated.
As I’ve said in previous posts. The moment that seems most calm is often the most dangerous moment.
Last year after watching Barca vs Arsenal in the first leg of the Champions league I posted a blog about the danger of the “best moment.”
I think it’s one of those things that you just have to live. In our game this weekend we had a back and forth contest on the road against a veteran team and we had a number of chances to seperate ourselves but let some opportunities slip away, especially at the free throw line. Then at the two minute mark we hit a 3 to go up by 6 and it seemed like we had the seperation that we needed to come away with the victory. And this is the exact moment that is most dangerous. I’m certain our team sensed that relax coming from their coach or each person individually shared this feeling and the result was a dumb foul, followed by an open 3 from one of their best shooters. A couple more missed free throws and a desperation bucket and we left the court in shock. From that “best moment” everything fell apart. For me it was a lesson that had to be lived to be learned.
Last weekend we learned first hand that it ain't over until the fat lady sings.
Turkey's zone was one of the determining factors in the World Championships
So at the end of December we had a game on the road during which only 7 players were available to play. Obviously not the ideal situation but with injuries these things can happen.
Before that game we were mainly a man to man team on defense playing a zone every once in a while. But with 7 guys I decided we were going to play alot more zone, we played zone for 40 minutes (except maybe 5-10 posessions of man to man if they attacked it well on consecutive posessions or after timeouts).
And it worked, we had by far our best defensive game, limiting
the opponent to 40 points (on their home court).
We had a long break for Christmas and it gave me time to reflect and even though we have 3 more guys back so we have the legs to play an agressive man to man as we were doing before we’re sticking to the zone and for a second consecutive game we won and limited the opponent to less than 40 points (36). After a couple weeks and a renewed intensity by the players on the defensive end, I wanted to reflect on some of the observations as to why I think this type of defensive philosophy is effective.
Why the Zone can be effective as a primary defense:
- The other team is uncomfortable: They aren’t running their normal sets. They have to run their zone offense which is almost always different than their normal offense and this can be an advantage.
- It’s easier for the players: Say what you want but it is easier to play a zone defense than a man to man. Obviously a good zone defense utilizes many of the same principles as a man to man defense but it is easier to play for the players. This can be a motivating factor because you are asking the players to do something that they will have a higher rate of success. If you ask someone to do a task they are confident they will succeed they will be more motivated than if you ask them to do something that they don’t see as possible to succeed.
- Clear rotations: In a zone it is easier to clearly identify the rotations and where the help has to come from. And players only need to know their role in the zone and know where the help is coming from. Where as in a man to man defense the players need to know the rotations in every position on the court.
In a zone players only need to know the rotations and location of the help from their position in the zone, while in man to man it is necessary the players know the rotations from all over the court.
Turkey's improbable run to the FIBA World Championship was fueled by a zone defense that had opponents out of sync.
At 5-9 and winning two games in a row it would be foolish to fix something that isn’t broken. Even though it will bring personel issues because players will be able to play for longer stretches so some guys will get less minutes. At this level the only letter that matters is the W.
This past game in the third quarter we decided to go with a triangle and two defense to try and deny their best two players from having an impact on the game on the offensive end. And it worked to a T, they had no rythm on the offensive end of the court and it appeared that we were gonna run away with it. Their two best players had no rythm and began to get frustrated. So their coaches made an interesting move and took them out of the game and sat them both down.
What to do? Stay in the same defense and pick up the next two players? or go back to a normal man to man defense or a zone without the main threats. Well we went back to a normal man to man defense and in a moment when we could have broke the game wide open they hung tight and for four or five minutes, giving their best guys rest and giving their team confidence. I took out the guys that were in the rythm to rest up to go back in when their two good guys got back in the game. I subbed out 4 guys which is not typical for me and we lost a little bit of our momentum. I can’t start talking about the game again or I’m gonna go crazy but if I could do it again I would keep the same defense and put the 2 on the next two best players and then force the other 3 to beat us. Should have, would have, could have.