You wouldn't think that the Celtics have too many troubles on defense. But Doc seems like he's willing to try any trick in the book to squeeze a little extra out of this team to get wins. So he's incorporating a zone defense into the schemes. But it isn't the easiest of transitions.
For a team that prides itself on playing great man-to-man defense, asking - no, expecting - them to play zone is not something that's embraced quickly. That initial reluctance has certainly played a role in Boston's struggles at times in a zone defense. "Our guys are starting to buy into it," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who added that there are still a couple who "don't get it yet."
One guy that "doesn't get it" (in another sense of the phrase) is ex-mate Tony Allen. The other night he must have been watching TNT because he tweeted a rather disparaging comment or two about the C's zone defense. Including "they look like they don't even know how to play that [expletive]."
On the other hand, it is kind of hard to take Tony's perceptive skills seriously when on the next tweet he referenced Derrick Rose, who wasn't even playing that night. So Salmon and Mashed Potatoes aside, is the defense working?
So let's bottom line it: Is the zone working? The Celtics are allowing 0.814 points per play in man defense, second best in the league, according to Synergy Sports data. Against the zone, Boston is allowing a still-respectable 0.843 points per play, which ranks ninth in the league. One difference: Teams are shooting a mere 37.4 percent against Boston's zone defense (as opposed to 39.7 percent in man). That seems to suggest that, by going to zone looks, the Celtics are hoping that teams will get complacent and settle for jumpers. That seems to be working as Synergy data shows that teams are scoring a mere 35.3 percent of the time against zone versus 39.6 percent against man. At the very least, it's taking time for opponents to adapt to the zone look.
Seems like another weapon to pull out and frustrate teams like the Heat, but not a full time sort of thing.