I watched the first half of the game between the San Antonio Silver Stars and Phoenix Mercury tonight in the WNBA and it was a pretty good thumping by the Stars over the Mercury. The Mercury's defense had problems from the get go and they could never get on track the rest of the way.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've used a lot of zone defense on teams that I've coached. But the more and I think about it, I would not use the zone as my base. The Mercury use a matchup zone as their base, then they'll switch to a M2M on occasion (usually when the zone isn't working). But once they switch to M2M, you see them struggle with defending plays like the PNR. Watch this clip with the Mercury first in a zone, then twice in M2M, and the Silver Stars take advantage of the defensive weaknesses each time,

Zone Defense Breaks Down:

The Mercury use a 3-2 matchup zone mostly as their base. It's not a bad defense, but like most zones, there are inherent weaknesses. Here, the Silver Stars use a high-low to get the ball inside, then go back outside for the open 3-pointer. The way the zone is designed, ball-oriented, notice how both the top zone defenders turn and look at the offensive player with the ball,

M2M Problems on the PNR:

My theory, is that because the Mercury use a zone defense as base, when they switch to a M2M, they get all crossed up. On the PNR, the Mercury are trying to hedge the screen here, but on the backside they can't decide if they want to rotate or play straight up. If they're suppose to be straight up, as I've pointed out, the defense is playing to far out. If they're suppose to rotate, it comes too late.

The Silver Stars shot lights out tonight which is kind of out of character for them. I don't think it's a coincidence that they found their stroke against the confused Mercury defense, I think we all agree it's much easy to make shots when you're wide open.


I've written about this before, but I think the Mercury have been scouted as to how they played last year. Teams know to force them to play half-court where they become impatient and take a lot of ill-advised 3-pointers. The zone defense they use as a base continues to be problematic. I'm not sure that there is time left in the season to correct their deficiencies.

For some more great M2M defensive drill info, check out Jamie Dixon's DVD on his 10 Point Shell Drill. Coach Dixon is the head coach at University of Pittsburgh. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.