I watched a couple of games on the schedule tonight as we inch closer to the playoffs. I started off with the game between the Magic and the Hawks. A meaningless game really, but nonetheless I wanted to watch what the Magic do on offense and defense as they get ready to play the Raptors in the first round (the Magic would win this game easily).

Offensively, the Magic are formidable. No question, they can beat you in so many ways. Defensively, based on this one game, it certainly appears that the Magic rely a lot on a matchup zone with Howard in the middle. Here are a few frames from the first half,

Matchup Zone:

At times it doesn't really look like a matchup zone but resembles a switching M2M. But the lines between what is a matchup and a switching M2M are blurry anyways. With any matchup zone, there are specific rules based on game strategy and overall defensive philosophy that cover what to do on screens, cutters and double-teams. The commonality among them all is the fact that the defenders must communicate and "bump the defender". Take the 2nd clip for example,

Howard doubles from the middle. His man gets the pass causing the Evans up top to rotate. Howard moves back down to cover the player on the low block and bumps Lewis to the far wing where a bad pass is thrown to. The key is that you don't move until you are "bumped". If Lewis moves before Howard bumps him, then there is a hole whereby the player on the low block is left unguarded for that time period.


The Magic are one of the best defensive teams FG% wise. I think that Dwight Howard in the middle has a lot to do with that. They give up a slightly higher 3-point %, which I think fits the way the Raptors like to play. The biggest key to the matchup between the Magic and Raptors will be whether the Raptors can play consistent defense. If not, it will be an easy first round for the Magic.

For an interesting perspective on zone defenses from a M2M defensive-minded coach, take a look at Tubby Smith's DVD on Utilizing Zones. Coach Smith is currently the head coach at Minnesota. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.