Sunday, June 8, 2008

How defense can win basketball games

One reason for Boston's improvement this season has been the team's defense, which led the league in both FG% and 3FG% this year. According to an article by Ian Thomsen in this week's issue of SI, there are a couple of keys:

1. The acquisition of veteran players: The roster that Danny Ainge has put together now has nine players who are in their 30's, including Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Posey, Cassell, Pollard, and PJ Brown. Said Doc: "Young guys want to run and gun. Veteran teams are always defensive teams."

2. A genuine emphasis on defense: Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant for my Dad in Minnesota (in fact, you can see Tom here, third from the left), is Boston's defensive coordinator. I was an assistant to Doc in Orlando the season he won COY honors. Like Tom, Doc has a clear understanding of and appreciation for good fundamental defense. Said Garnett: "Defense is our backbone now."

3. Personnel, led by Kevin Garnett: Garnett directs the defense and is athletic enough to guard "every corner of the court." Said Doc: "Kevin made [the transformation] possible. When your best player buys in defensively, then everybody has to follow."

So how does it work? According to the SI article:

Keep the ball out of the paint, shrink the floor by overloading defenders to one side and try to contest every shot. Rarely does Thibodeau tweak the game plan by calling a variety of sets from the sideline. The Celtics are committed to their basic man-to-man principles, and when a certain approach isn't working, the staff's first adjustment is to demand greater effort.

Here's a quick video of Rondo talking about Boston's defensive strategy for LA.