Miami Herald (Sunday)

Zone ‘D’ big key to Heat’s winning formula

- BY ANTHONY CHIANG achiang@miamiheral­

The Miami Heat is in the zone — literally.

The Heat hasn’t played as much zone defense as it did last regular season, when it set a modern-day NBA record for most zone possession­s played in a single season. But the zone has been a big part of the Heat’s winning formula in each of the past two games on the heels of its first seven-game losing streak since 2008.

The Heat allowed just 0.73 points per possession on 37 zone half-court defensive possession­s in Wednesday’s home win over the Sacramento

Kings, compared to 1.04 points per possession on 48 man-to-man half-court defensive possession­s.

The Heat again turned to its press-zone defense for a large chunk of the second half in Friday’s 110-102 road win over the Washington Wizards, rallying from a three-point halftime deficit to earn a second straight victory.

After using its zone defense for just four halfcourt defensive possession­s in Friday’s first half, the Heat went to zone for 24 possession­s in the second. The Heat held the Wizards to just 0.68 points per possession while in zone defense, compared to 1.02 points while using its man scheme.

“The goal is just to get people out of their ordinary NBA offense,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “You got to run something else for the zone. It bothered [the Wizards] today. It worked for us and we’re going to keep running it.”

After Washington shot 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) on threes in the first half, the Heat’s zone helped limit the Wizards to 3-of-19

(15.8 percent) shooting from three-point range in the second. The zone, which focused on protecting the rim and minimizing clean three-point opportunit­ies, forced the Wizards to take 17 non-rim two-point shots (13 nonrim paint shots and four non-paint twos) in the second half.

“It takes them out of their normal offensive sets,” Heat guard Tyler

Herro said. “They were getting in a little bit of a rhythm during the first half. I think the zone forces them to take shots that we want them to take, which is those non-paint twos and long twos. I think once we started to funnel them into our zone, they really started to struggle on the offensive end and our lead started to increase.”

Pulling out the zone for extended stretches against a struggling Wizards team that holds the NBA’s 25thranked offensive rating is one thing.

But using it in Sunday’s matchup against the talented Los Angeles Clippers at Kaseya Center would be a different challenge. Led by Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden, the Clippers own the league’s fourth-ranked offensive rating and have won 24 of their past 29 games following an 8-10 start to the season.

“It will differ game to game where we need to adjust our schemes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s really about the activity level, making it tough on other teams, getting them out of their comfort zone.”


With Herro’s second made three in Friday’s win over the Wizards, he became the second-fastest player in Heat history to make his 700th career NBA three-pointer. Herro did it in his 272nd regularsea­son NBA game.

The only Heat player who reached that mark faster than Herro is Duncan Robinson, who made his 700th in an NBArecord 216 regular-season games.

Herro is just the fifth player in franchise history to make 700 threes in a Heat uniform, joining Robinson, Tim Hardaway, Eddie Jones and Glen Rice.


Beginning with Sunday’s matchup against the Clippers, the Heat has six games left to play before the All-Star break and most of them will be challengin­g.

Five of the Heat’s next six games leading into the break come against winning teams.

Following a four-game homestand that includes matchups against the Clippers on Sunday, Orlando Magic on Tuesday, San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and Boston Celtics on Feb. 11, the Heat hits the road for a tough back-toback set against the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 13 and Philadelph­ia 76ers on Feb. 14.

The Heat fell to the Clippers 121-104 in Los Angeles on Jan. 1 in the teams’ first meeting of the season.


The Heat ruled out Robinson for Sunday’s matchup against the Clippers. It marks the third straight game he has missed while in concussion protocol.

The Heat also remains without RJ Hampton (G League) and Dru Smith (knee surgery). Jamal Cain (illness) is listed as questionab­le for the Heat.

Anthony Chiang: 305-376-4991, @Anthony_Chiang

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