What a great game the Trailblazers played tonight. The Bulls do look a lot better, but the Blazers really showed some heart, winning in 2OT on the road. I switched to the Suns game against the Sonics and it was good (because I'm a Steve Nash guy) to see the Suns come from a 20 point deficit to beat the Sonics. From a coaching perspective, what amazed me the most was the inability for Sonics coach PJ Carlesimo to change defenses. The Sonics stayed in their 2-3 zone the entire game. It worked for the first quarter (I'm guessing because I didn't see it), but when the Suns came back to almost tie by half, I was almost certain that the Sonics would change defenses. But they didn't.

The Suns just picked apart the Sonics 2-3 zone with 3-point shooting, ball reversal, offensive rebounding, underneath, penetrating the gaps. You name it, they did it. It was beautiful to watch, take a look for yourself and then you can read my thoughts below.

As I mentioned above, the Suns did all the things you need to do to beat zones. I won't show all of them but this sequence is perhaps one of my favorite ways to beat the zone because it combines at least 3 of the fundamental zone concepts:

1. Ball reversals and skip passes force the zone to shift and morph
2. Penetrate the gaps to force the defense to collapse
3. Run a player or 2 underneath the zone where they can't see

Skip, Penetrate, Underneath:

Very simple here. The Suns spread the floor with 4-out 1-in. The 1-in is Grant Hill and is behind the baseline where the zone defense cannot see him.

Nash has the ball on the wing. He skips it directly to Barbosa. This forces X4 to come up to defend him. Barbosa quickly reverses it again to Shawn Marion in the corner. Now the Sonics are actually in a matchup zone, so X3 closes out from the opposite side while X5 maintains the center.

O3, Shawn Marion could've shot the 3-pointer, but even better, he penetrates the gap along the baseline. This forces X5 to step up and protect the paint. Grant Hill slips underneath and receives the pass from Shawn for the easy layup. X2 comes down from the top to help but is late.


It was clear to me what PJ Carlesimo's defensive gameplan was, we'll play zone defense and make em shoot over top all night. And that worked for a time, but as I've said before, on defense you must be adaptable. You can't be married to 1 principle. For example, if you're a pressing team, don't fall in love with your press, there will always come a time when it won't work. Same with zones, don't live and die with your 1-3-1, always have different defenses that you can easily switch to. The Sonics failed to adjust defensively and got blasted as a result.

A great video with a lot of the zone offense concepts I talk about are in Coach Mike Krzyzewski's Zone Offense DVD. Coach K needs to introduction, he is one of the finest basketball minds to have ever lived. The discussions are heating up at the X's and O's Basketball Forum so be sure to stop by and join in.