The Los Angeles Lakers are halfway home to the NBA title after emerging victorious in game 2 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers beat the Miami Heat 124-114 with their pin-point offensive execution to take the commanding 2-0 lead.
The undermanned Heat team, who were without two of their stars, Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (shoulder), had a tough task ahead of them to try and even the series with the heavily favored Laker team. To stop their formidable opponent, the Heat planned to use their unorthodox style of zone with their smaller guards on the back line of the defense, rather than the traditional approach of having guards at the top.
But the Lakers definitely came prepared, using their height and their skills to display an offensive masterclass on how to attack a zone defense. If a basketball player wants to learn what to do against a zone defense, they just need to watch how the Lakers executed their offense yesterday. Let’s take a look into some of the details we can take away from last night’s clinic from the Purple & Gold.
Crash the Boards
One of the weaknesses a zone has would be giving up offensive rebounds. Compared to a man-to-man where everyone knows who they’re supposed to box out, in a zone, it’s an absolute scrabble on who they’re supposed to box out when a shot goes up. The Lakers easily exploited this weakness by their relentless efforts to grab offensive rebounds. They used their height advantage and length en route to 16 offensive rebounds, compared to just 6 for Miami. Anthony Davis led the team by example by his effort and hustle to snatch 8 offensive rebounds.
The great thing about grabbing offensive rebounds is that it gives the team more chances to put shots up, and ultimately, more opportunities to score. The Lakers took advantage of these offensive rebounds by scoring 21 second chance points. Going against a zone, crashing the boards and getting offensive rebounds should always be a priority for teams.
Find the Open Spots
Against any type of defense, finding the open spots and taking advantage of these openings is always important for a basketball team. If the defense is playing a zone, cutting and flashing towards those open spots are extra important so you can get the zone moving. Against a 2-3 zone specifically, the clear opening would be right in the middle, right around the free throw line. The Lakers showed how advantageous this opening can be, by always hitting the man by the free throw line, and making the correct reads based on how the defense reacts. The Purple & Gold were at their best when their best passers, specifically Lebron and Rondo, were in the open spots so they could make accurate passes to their open teammates. They were able to get a lot of easy baskets by making the center commit, and giving a drop pass to their bigs down low, such as Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and even Lebron on occasion. They also found the open shooters on the outside and ended up hitting 16 3-point shots. To face a zone, it’s always important to find those open spots and get the defense moving to be able to get easier baskets.
Attack the Paint
Driving into the paint, and getting higher percentage shots is always valuable. In how the game is played in this day and age, it is so easy to fall in love with all the 3-point shots. But attacking the paint should never be forgotten because it makes basketball a whole lot easier. Playing against the zone, attacking the paint can be beneficial because even if you do not score inside, it makes the defense collapse and can open up your shooters outside. The Lakers showed how important this is by always trying to get easy baskets in the paint and truly making an effort to get the ball inside. The Purple & Gold ended up scoring 56 points in the paint, close to almost half of their total points. Paint scoring has been one of the strengths of this Laker team this season, and they are 2 wins away from being the best team this season which goes to show how helpful attacking the paint is.
Move the Ball
As basketball is a team sport, ball movement is always key. Being able to get the ball to the open man, and making the defense move, always gets a team easier shots. The Lakers executed their offense, and moved the ball beautifully throughout the game to often get open, and easy baskets. The Lakers were able to get 32 total assists as a team, well above their postseason average of 26 assists per game. Of course they were led by two of the best passers in NBA history — assists leader for the regular season, Lebron James, who had 9 assists, and point guard Rajon Rondo, who finished with 10 assists. Rajon Rondo even accomplished a couple of milestones with his 10 assists as he passed both Steve Nash and Larry Bird to become 6th on the NBA’s all-time playoff assists list. There is a lot to learn from the Lakers this season, and their effectiveness in moving the ball is really one of them.
Watching the Southern California team play this postseason has been such a joy amidst everything else going on in the world. The Lakers are only two wins away from their 17th NBA title in franchise history, and their first since 2010. As long as the Lakers keep playing how they have been playing, it would be close to impossible for the Miami Heat to come back from this 2-0 deficit. Game 3 is scheduled tomorrow 4:30pm Pacific time, and Laker Nation are hoping for the Lakers to be another step closer to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Featured Image: Douglas P. DeFelice/nba.com