One of the major characteristics of the 2020 playoffs is that the zone defense is in the lead. The Heat use zone defense, and even make their way to the finals without being optimistic. Well-known NBA reporters Tim Bontemps and Kevin Pelton jointly wrote an article analyzing why zone defense was re-used in this year's playoffs.
2020年季后赛的主要特征之一是区域防守处于领先地位。热火利用区域防守，甚至不至于进入决赛。著名的NBA记者Tim Bontemps和Kevin Pelton共同撰写了一篇文章，分析了为何在今年的季后赛中重新使用区域防守。
In today's NBA offensive and defensive non-stop contest, offense has recently gained the upper hand. In the past two seasons, with the increasing number of three-point shots, NBA teams have also played the most efficient offense. The extensive use of zone defense is a key adjustment for this year's playoffs. The once abandoned zone defense may reshape this year's finals.
In the 2001-02 season, the NBA cancelled the "illegal defense" rule and gave the green light to zone defense. However, nearly two seasons ago, the zone defense was on the verge of extinction in the NBA.
According to Synergy Sports statistics, the use of zone defense in the 2009-10 season reached a peak of 3%, but the use of zone defense in the 2017-18 season was only 638 rounds, accounting for only 0.2%. This is also the use of zone defense. Compared to the lowest point in the process of decline for 6 consecutive seasons. Between 2009 and 2012, zone defense was everywhere. The Lone Ranger once relied on zone defense and defeated the Heat led by the Big Three in the 2011 finals.
Seven years later, zone defense is gaining momentum in the NBA, and the Heat played a key role in it.
On December 20, 2018, in a nationally broadcast game, the Heat used zone defense to limit MVP Harden. At that time, Harden was in the process of creating a record of 30+ points in 32 consecutive games. In this scene, despite the unconventional defense of the Heat, he scored 35 points, but he only made 7 of 23 shots and 15 of his 35 points came from free throws.
Although the Heat coach Spoelstra strongly denies it, other team coaches have noticed how often the Heat use zone defense. In the 2019-20 regular season, the Heat used zone defense in 802 rounds, surpassing the total of 30 teams in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. The use of zone defense within the league also increased to 2.2% this season, the highest record since the 2011-12 shrinking season.
Although the Heat did not use a lot of zone defense when they eliminated the Pacers and Bucks in the first two rounds of this year, zone defense is the key to the Heat's 4-2 elimination of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The reason why coaches deliberately avoided zone defense before was because they were concerned about the outside shooting ability of NBA players, but today's NBA zone defense is no longer vulnerable to outside shooting. The current Pistons coach Dwyane Casey, who served as the Lone Ranger defensive coach in 2011, said: "Each team has adjusted the zone defense rules and the three-second rule. This is not what you usually see in NCAA matches. It’s 2-3 or 3-2 zone defense. It’s a glorious change from a poorly imitating zone defense to being able to adjust the zone defense."
教练之前故意避免区域防守的原因是因为他们担心NBA球员的外线投篮能力，但如今的NBA区外防守不再容易受到外线投篮的攻击。现任活塞队主教练德怀恩·凯西（Dwyane Casey）在2011年担任独行侠的防守教练，他说：“每支球亚博首页网址队都调整了区域防守规则和三秒规则。这在NCAA比赛中并不常见。这是2- 3或3-2区域防御。这是从模仿不佳的区域防御到能够调整区域防御的光荣转变。”
Spoel changed the player's position in the zone. In the Heat's 2-3 zone defense, he will arrange two forwards with excellent athletic ability to occupy high positions, and two small guards will be placed on the flanks near the bottom corner, which also makes the Heat's zone defense more difficult to break. His innovation was also borrowed by Jazz coach Snyder midway through the season.
The decline of the zone defense and the emphasis on three-pointers by NBA teams are almost at the same time, which is no coincidence. However, even if the number of three-pointers continues to increase, the zone defense is picking up again. Wizards coach Scott Brooks said: "This is really an interesting contradiction. We obviously shoot more three-pointers than ever before, so why do we have to play zone defense?"
The Lone Ranger used zone defense in the 2011 Finals, exposing the Heat’s weakness in not being good at shooting. Nowadays, every team strives to get as many shots as possible on the court. However, contrary to people's intuition, the zone defense actually pays more attention to protecting the basket.
There are two reasons for this. First of all, when the opponent sends out a "five-point shooting" lineup, every player can shoot three points, which will cause great trouble to the defensive players. They have to take care of the rim to prevent the opponent from breaking through, and they have to pounce on the outside. Anti-shooter, can't take care of it. Second, shots near the basket will be more valuable. This season, in the three-second zone, each shot scored 1.27 points, compared with 1.17 points for each bottom corner three-pointer; and other area three-pointers, 1.05 points per shot.
Because of this, the primary task of today's NBA defense is still to prevent the opponent from taking points at the basket, which is more important than preventing the opponent's three-pointers.
Among the top 10 teams in the league in defensive efficiency in the 2019-20 season, only the 76ers' 3-point defense can rank among the top 8 in the league. In contrast, among the league’s best defensive TOP10 teams, 4 teams (including the Bucks and Raptors) are among the 8 teams that limit opponents’ three-point attempts. There are 6 teams among the best 8 teams, and none of them fall into the list of the 8 teams with the worst inside scoring limit.
According to Second Spectrum statistics, the three-point shooting facing each team in the zone has increased (the shots accounted for 53%, while the one-on-one shots accounted for only 38%). However, the zone defense has greatly reduced the number of inside shots of each team, and the percentage of shots (16%) is much lower than that of man-to-man defense (26%).
This shows that today's zone defense attaches great importance to protecting the basket, and zone defense can indeed effectively protect the basket. Three of the four teams that reached the conference finals this year used zone defenses, with the Nuggets being the only exception.
In the NCAA, famous coaches such as Jim Boeheim of Syracuse University and John Chaney of Temple University will use 2-3 defenses extensively, but coaches of various NBA teams have found that this is an excellent way to create a defensive counterattack. According to statistics, zone defense loses 1.12 points per round, slightly more than man-to-man (1.11 points).
在NCAA中，锡拉丘兹大学的Jim Boeheim和Temple University的John Chaney等著名教练将广泛使用2-3道防线，但是各个NBA球队的教练都发现这是进行防守反击的绝佳方法。据统计，区域防守每轮损失1.12分，略高于人对人（1.11分）。
In this regard, Lakers coach Vogel believes that this is because "most NBA teams are still not very proficient in the use of zone defense, and there will be many loopholes in it, which are easy to be targeted." He also believes that the zone defense is not long enough now. It can only be used as an on-the-spot emergency measure.
But as Coach Brooks pointed out, the value of zone defense is to force the offense to adopt offensive methods they are not used to. And no active coach has more experience in the use of zone defense than the best coach of the new division, Raptors coach Nass. In the 2019 finals, in the face of warriors full of wounded soldiers, Nas sacrificed the combined defense Box-1, which is usually only seen in high school games, to limit Curry. In today's second round of the Eastern Conference, he repeated his old tricks and used Box-1 to deal with Kemba Walker.
Today’s players are more creative when holding the ball. High-quality shooters fill every corner of the league. The rules also encourage offense, making it more difficult to defend. But the purpose of defense has never been to limit all offenses, but to keep opponents from attacking in the way they want. Coach Brooks believes that in the future, zone defense will be more common and there will be more innovations.