Sometimes you watch a game and you think, that's bad defense. I watched the early game between the Raptors and the Celtics on CBC, national TV here in Canada and I'd have to say, it was one of the worst displays of team and individual defense I've ever seen in my life.

If there just one thing the Raptors could wish for this Christmas, it's learning how to stop the ball. It was a major problem from last season, the one major factor that separated them from the elite teams in the east. And unfortunately, it is still the main factor. The Raptors are actually allowing a higher opponent ppg at 100 than last season at 97, so you could say they've digressed. The Celtics ran the same play over and over, a 1-2-2 high ball screen and the Raptors were powerless to stop it. Here are some of the low lights from the third quarter where they watched Rajon Rondo light them up, again, and again, and again...

Protect the Basket, Give him space:

Now, when you are defending someone on the perimeter, as a coach, the standard is 1-arms length away on ball. To prevent the player from popping a 3-pointer. However, the priority is always to protect the basket, always. Now, if you read a scouting report and the player you are defending is not a 3-point shooter, you can probably give him more space.

Rajon Rondo of the Celtics is one such player, he is quick and can penetrate but what he cannot do consistently is shoot the 3-pointer. So give him space. I don't know why Jose Calderon is playing 1-arms length on Rondo here at halfcourt,

In this sequence below, I don't understand why Chris Bosh is playing so tight on Garnett on the perimeter. Why not back up, let him receive the pass on the perimeter, then close him out. That way, you are protecting the basket first, then closing out second. Instead, Garnett reads the overplay and just cuts backdoor for the alley-oop,

How Not to Defend Ball Screens:

In this age of the PNR in the NBA, you must know how you will defend the PNR. Now, teams will use any number of tactics given the context of who they are playing. Against the Celtics, you know Rondo will either drive to score or dish. Therefore, the best way to defend is to either hedge or trap the ball screen, forcing the ball out of his hands; or go underneath and sag completely in order to protect the basket first, close out second. The Raptors don't seem to have a clear idea what they want to do. In this sequence, it looks like Bargnani is on a straight switch, except watch Calderon, he's in a trail position. This allows Perkins to slip the screen, roll to the basket and get the easy dish and lay in from Rondo,


You must be able to stop the ball. If you cannot stop penetration either through 1v1 defense or help defense, you will allow a lot of points, there's no way around that fact. The Raptors have not addresses this fundamental flaw in their team and will therefore never be a great team until they do so.

Now, the absence of Jermaine O'Neal who left in the 2nd quarter is a factor, as he adds help-side shot blocking. But in my opinion, that comes at the expense of allowing open shots. In the NBA, I don't think it is good enough to be able to just stop the ball, you have to be able to close out shooters as well.

If your team is struggling defensively like the Raptors, time to get back to basics and look at defensive stance. Check out Seth Greenberg's new DVD on the Defensive Stance. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.