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Basketball Basics: Tactical Defense Explained

Apr 9, 2008
Most of us have a tendency to think of tactical situations in terms of offense. The jump ball, out-of-bounds, and free throw line-ups are generally considered to be excellent scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, only one team will have an opportunity to score: the one that gets the ball. One team will be required to take the defensive.

Generally each team will have the same number of scoring and defensive chances during the course of a game. It will be necessary to "defense" these situations just as often as we attempt to score from them. Often there is hesitation among players when these plays occur, indicating little practice time has been given to them.

A specific approach should be developed for each tactical opportunity. Although there may be many ways of "de-fensing" an out-of-bounds play, the fact that you have one method rehearsed and practiced gives your boys an air of confidence.

Out-of-Bounds Defense

Out-of-bounds plays run with the ball taken out directly under or near the throw-in team's goal have proved notably successful. The percentage of success on this play must be the highest of all attempted set plays in basketball. There are good reasons for this success. The throw-in team forces the defensive team to turn around and defend almost facing the goal instead of with their backs to the goal. This is strange and in itself creates lack of confidence on the part of a defensive player.

The tight screen and subsequent roll to goal is possibly the toughest play in basketball to stop under normal circumstances. In this unique situation, it becomes doubly difficult. The ball handler is virtually a free passer. It is impossible to put the same amount of pressure on him that could be applied if he were in bounds where the defensive player becomes a threat to get his hands on the ball. In view of these advantages, it is not surprising that out-of-bounds plays under the goal are quite successful.

The defense must first of all realize that it is at a disadvantage, that this is a tough play to stop. The defense must make a decision to stop the lay-up or the jump shot. Surely the good, aggressive defensive team will set as its goal the defense of any attempted shot. Still, all teams would rather have the opponent take a jump shot rather than a lay-up.

One approach to "defending" this play is a collapse to some sort of zone defense every time it occurs in a game. The zone would be used until that particular play is over. There are teams that do not use the zone in any situation so this would not be the answer for them. They would prefer using their regular man-for-man defense.

The man-for-man defense should show the ball handler some perimeter receivers. They should sag a great deal. They should sag so much that a pass to a cutter or potential scorer directly under the goal would be impossible. They should sag so much that their defense looks like a zone. The man guarding the passer should get between his man and the goal and use vigorous arm-waving tactics to prevent a direct pass to the goal area. Do not allow the offense to spread your team.

Jam tightly in a knot of defensive men in the critical scoring area. If the offense spreads you they get an easy screen and roll play. If they don't spread you, they may pass directly to a receiver on the perimeter for a quick jump shot. The choice of these lesser of two evils doesn't present a difficult choice for us. Here is the basis for nearly all out-of-bounds plays against man-for-man defenses. It may not look like this and it may be somewhat different, but the great majority of teams will use some version of the screen and roll.

Tactical defense can help your team hugely. It should be well practiced and then used in games.
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