Miami Heat defensive stopper PJ Tucker recently spoke to Andscape about his calling card in the League: tough-nosed gritty defense, night after night.
“It’s not a desirable job, man. Nobody wants to guard anybody. But from a competitive standpoint, I love the way I came into league, and I made myself in the league being that. It’s like, ‘Nobody wants to guard him. I got him,” Tucker said.
Tucker showcased his elite defense against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. While guarding James Harden, Tucker allowed him to score just five points all game, with the rest of Harden’s points coming from the line or against another Miami defender.
While Harden shot 66.7 percent against Tucker, he got only three shots up on him in four minutes and 42 seconds of action; the largest timeframe spent guarding the Beard by far in Game 1.
Tucker elaborated on the behind-the-scenes necessities it takes to be an effective defender:
“I got to study film. I got to study tendencies. I got to study everything. I got to know everybody on the floor. You got to talk. You got to be vocal. You got to be physical. You got to understand the game. You got to understand how games are being read.”
However, he believes defense takes more than just understanding the game and what your opponent wants to do. Using Draymond Green as an example, Tucker gave another golden requirement of being an elite defender:
“He’s [Draymond Green] one of the most competitive people in the League, but he does his job just as good if not better than anybody in the highest level, championship level. And that’s what it’s about for me. Being a defender’s being the most competitive person out there.”
Tucker and the Heat play Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the 76ers tonight at the FTX Arena.