Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is widely viewed as one of the best and smartest head coaches in the NBA. He receives lots of praise from people around the league — and rightfully so.
Former NBA player and current analyst J.J. Redick recently took some time to praise Spoelstra for his use of a zone defense, recalling a specific moment in the 2022 NBA Playoffs that really impressed him.
“Miami scored,” Redick began. “There was 38 to 42 seconds on the clock, and as soon as they scored, he called out the zone, so that Philly couldn’t get the quick two-for-one. And it’s s— like that where I’m just — obviously, he’s got years and years of experience, but like that to me, just on the fly, being able to communicate that, being able to recognize that, then his team reacting to it — ugh, it’s just good stuff.”
A quick bit of research and viewing would take fans back to Game 3 of the 2022 Eastern Conference semifinals between the Heat and Philadelphia 76ers. It was during that game that Spoelstra made the impressive decision.
Victor Oladipo scored a layup near the end of the first quarter of that game, leaving 41.2 seconds on the clock. While his players were heading back down the court, Spoelstra signaled for them to get into a zone defense.
The 76ers weren’t able to properly execute the two-for-one situation, and the Heat eventually forced a 24-second violation. Unfortunately, that call from Spoelstra didn’t really end up mattering, as the Heat were blown out by the 76ers 99-79.
Philadelphia wound up tying that series at two games apiece before Miami won Games 5 and 6 to reach the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
As Heat fans surely remember, their squad wound up losing in seven games to the Celtics, who then proceeded to lose to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
All that is in the past now, with Spoelstra and the Heat more focused on their current second-round series against the New York Knicks.
The battle is tied at one game apiece, with Game 3 set to take place at Kaseya Center on Saturday afternoon. Jimmy Butler, who missed Game 2 of the series with an ankle injury, reportedly plans to play on Saturday.
A win on Saturday would give Spoelstra 102 playoff wins as a head coach. He ranks fifth all time in that category, behind only Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.