It was my first game of the year watching the defending champion Phoenix Mercury so far, and like their 4-7 record indicated, their play was sub-par. They still lead the league in points scored at 87 ppg, but the problem is they're allowing 90 ppga. On Sunday, the New York Liberty blew them out by 30.

I think what's happened is that teams are more accustomed to the way the Mercury play, which is basically similar to the Phoenix Suns, 7 seconds or less. Teams are getting back into transition defense quicker and forcing them to use up more clock.

I didn't watch them much last year, but in the game on Sunday, I noticed that the Mercury played a lot of zone, especially in the first half. The Liberty did a great job breaking the zone and in the process, blowing the game out wide open,

1-3-1 Zone Offense:

The basic formation of the Liberty's zone offense is the 1-3-1 against the Mercury's 3-2 matchup zone. The emphasis is on moving the ball side-to-side and using ball-fakes to move the defense. The ball also enters the high post area to draw the defenders in. The last part is teaching your O5 to play the weak side offensive rebound. The skip pass to 3-pointer is the scoring play here,

In this second clip, the Liberty penetrate the gap, then the kick out and reverse to the shooting guard who shuffles to the corner. When there is a big gap, like here between the top and wing defenders, you must penetrate and make the defense suck inward, then kick out,


I'm a huge Diana Taurasi fan, ever since her days at UConn. Her and Sue Bird keep a pretty lively blog called the Buddy Blog, you should check it out if you can. I love the way she plays, she's like a bulldog, relentless, aggressive and hungry. I also like her emotion, she's not afraid to show her feelings. She still leads the league in ppg, but clearly, the defense has been a problem. I think the zone was introduced because they thought it might slow some other teams down, but I think it's working against them. I think they should go back to M2M and break their players down some on the fundamentals. The zone, IMO, is a band aid solution, and not a good one at that.

For more zone offense info, Ben Braun has a new DVD on Principles of Zone Offense. Coach Braun is the head coach at Rice University. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.