By: Annie Yu
The chant continues, growing louder and louder as the Miami Heat faces off against the Denver Nuggets, home of two of the league’s most fearsome players --- Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Luckily for them, the Heat specializes in defense.
For over 50 years, the NBA refused to allow teams to play anything but a one-on-one: star player versus star player. But the rules on “no zone” have loosened now, and the Miami Heat is known as the team that uses the most zone defense in the entire league. That was what they planned to do- defend areas of the court instead of individual players.
Miami Heat, however, is used to playing defense zone: taking #1 with their statistic of playing zone 19.7% of the time. For the Heat, the zone was born of necessity: a way for Spoelstra to match up against the “league leaders” and hide weaker defenders. This was showcased in the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics, where the Celtics often settled for jump shots instead of attacking the rim after the zone was put out.
NBA’s new rule relaxations have helped the Miami Heat and pushed things in their favor. Without famous players, playing one-on-one isn’t exactly easy. But a large group versus one player… that simplifies things.
Yet the Miami Heat still lost--- but it’s no surprise, given the Nuggets’ array of expert shooters and Jokic, two-time winner of the NBA’s MVP award.
“We didn’t offer much resistance. I think the thing we’ve proven over and over and over is we can win and find different ways to win,” explains Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra after the Heat’s 109-94 loss.
Perhaps one day they, too, will become a well-rounded, all-star team.