HANG TIME TEXAS – You’d think that one thing the Heat would have figured out over the extended off-season is how to play against a zone defense.
After all, wasn’t that what the Mavericks used to twist Miami’s star-studded lineup into pretzel knots and change the entire series last June in The Finals?
But here we are, one game into the New Year of 2012 – the Final Year, if your calendar was made by Mayans – and Heat looked like they’re right back to square one, taking their first loss of the season against the Hawks, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
Right now, the Heat have a problem with zone defense and the whole league is about to realize it.
The Dallas Mavericks used it effectively in the Finals against them last June, though the champs seemed to forget that strategy in the Christmas Day opener. But the Boston Celtics, a team that virtually never goes to zone, nearly pulled off a second-half comeback last week using it until they were upended by an unexpected shooting performance by Heat rookie Norris Cole.
The Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves, for some reason, decided not to pick up where the Celtics left off and barely showed it to the Heat over the next three games. The Hawks, however, did not make the same mistake. With two days to prepare for their first shot at their major division rival, they didn’t miss the chance.
Atlanta deployed the zone from the first quarter onward, mixing it in effectively throughout the game. The result was the worst offensive output of the season for Miami, reducing them from the speedy juggernaut they had fashioned themselves lately to shades of the unsteady and trustless play that plagued them at times last season.
“Inevitably, we’re going to see it quite a bit from here,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra conceded after the game. “What was disappointing was it affected us and our concentration.”
Aside from Windhorst’s review of the Heat’s woes against the zone, the Heat’s own website took a crack at explaining how Cole played a key role in breaking up the Celtics’ zone last week.
Still, wasn’t part of the whole recalibration of the Heat for 2011-12 supposed to be a better understanding of how to execute and play different styles against different teams? We know it was a short training camp for all teams, but couldn’t Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh met in somebody’s ultra-luxe driveway to talk about spacing, moving the ball and attacking the basket?
So what have we learned 10 days into the new season?
- That if you’re the rest of the NBA and you let Wade, James and Bosh cruise up and down the floor like they’re in the HOV lane, we might as well pack up the Larry O’Brien Trophy and ship it to Miami now.
- That if you’re the Heat and see a zone defense, apparently nothing.