Article-of-the-Month: “Practice On Intense Situations Everyday”



Practice On Intense Situations Everyday”



The winner of many basketball games can many times be determined by just a matter of one or two isolated plays. A wide margin of talent-levels can dictate the winner and loser of games, but what helps define the winner of a game that has comparable talent and skill level?   The answer may very well be just one or two key possessions of the basketball. Sometimes a basketball team can have a wide variety of offensive performance levels. Offenses can be fleeting, but defenses should be a “constant,” because defenses require effort, energy, heart, enthusiasm and a sound defensive plan of action. Does a team have a marked advantage because of outstanding defensive preparation of unique scenarios that can easily happen during the game? Can a basketball team that has inferior talent and is possibly out-played by the other team, still come out the victor of the game? This can sometimes take place if this team can achieve an edge in scenarios or situations that could happen during the course of the game.

If the many different defensive scenarios have not been carefully evaluated, analyzed and then practiced with detailed repetitions, a basketball team could only win this type of close game by relying solely on the execution of the defensive strategies that were practiced in close detail in practice sessions and then instructed to execute during the game’s timeout. If winning a game is so important, should a coach go with a defensive strategy that was drawn up during the excitement of a last second timeout—a defensive plan that the coaching staff and players are not necessarily familiar with or is a coaching staff going to elect a course of action that has been carefully thought out, discussed, taught, and practiced repeatedly during the season?

Instead of a coach devising a defensive plan of action that his team might not have ever experience or practiced, why not have these plans already introduced and understood by his/her team and also specifically practiced. This would give that defensive team an opportunity to be as prepared for these last second situations as they are for everything else that takes place in the games’ normal segments.

There are many different defensive schemes, methods and philosophies that can be very effective for a basketball team. Since there is not necessarily a “right or a wrong” method, the plan of action must be carefully planned, devised and then agreed upon (by the coaching staff). The defensive schemes must thoroughly be devised, then taught and convinced to the players in its effectiveness. The purpose of this article as well as the previous and the following article is to dare each coach and coaching staff to be prepared and to have his/her teams prepared for those all important situations.


Does your team always use a particular type of defense when defending Baseline Out-of-Bounds (B.O.B) plays, even if it is not your regular half-court defense? Do you zone or play man defense? If playing man, do you switch all off-the-ball screens when playing man-to-man on out-of-bounds plays? Does your philosophy dictate that the opposition’s “B.O.B. Trigger” be defended or not be defended? If you play a zone, do you trap the in-bounded pass in the deep corner? Do you deny the reversal pass out of the corner? Does your team use a specific type of defense when defending the opposition’s Sideline Out-of-Bounds (S.O.B.) plays? Does your philosophy dictate that the opposition’s “S.O.B. Trigger” be defended or not be defended? If he/she is not defended, where do you place their “Trigger’s” defender, in the lane or as a centerfielder? Are in-bounds receivers defended with full face-guarding or not? Do you switch all screens in the S.O.B. scenarios? Why or why not?


Does the coaching staff have a philosophy on whether they want players early in the game to call a timeout to protect the possession of the ball as they are about to fall out of bounds? Or does the coaching staff want to save those timeouts for late game situations? If the coaching staff does not have a set philosophy and has not taught their players, those decisions will then be left up to the players. Does the coaching staff want to leave that decision up to the players?


Is it your staff’s philosophy to change its defense late in the time period when the opposition is holding the ball for the last shot in the period?   Defensively, does your team have a half-court trap defense or does it have a half-court trapping man-to-man defense? Which defense do you prefer to use? Why? Does your defensive attitude become more passive, more aggressive or stay the same? Do you change switching on screens or trapping on ball-screens, when playing man-to-man defense?


When your offensive team is going for the last shot of the time period, does your team have a predetermined defense that your team should use (even if it is a defensive change) when the opposition gains possession of the ball (after your score or turnover in the last few seconds of the time period)? For example, do you have your team change to a token full court pressure defense (to burn time off of the clock), whether it is a zone press or a man-to-man press? At the half-court level, do you then utilize a man-to-man defense to prevent an uncontested three-point shots at the buzzer? Do you change your defensive screening rules during this particular scenario of the game?


Conversely, another one of the most important decisions a coaching staff should decide on and then convey to all players is what they should do in the last seconds of a game after they score to tie the game or when the opposition remains with the lead. The amount of the opponent’s current lead should also affect the coaching staff’s philosophy. If still behind, are there specific full court press defenses that should be utilized? If there are several choices, how is the desired defense called out to the team?

What kind of defense (full court and half court) is used after your team has scored to tie the game or put your team into the lead in the final seconds of a game.

Do your players know how to defend the opposition from either the full court and half court levels with the various time and score situations?


Does the coaching staff have a philosophy and have they taught their team a type of man-to-man defense that could be used in late game situations where the primary objective is to defend the opposition from shooting “three’s” and sacrifice giving up an inside shot for “2?” If that has been taught that to players, do players know when to use that defense and when not to use it?

Or does the coaching staff have a philosophy for late game situations of deliberately fouling an opponent to prevent them for shooting (and making a “3” to ultimately tie the score)? If so, has the staff thoroughly taught the players the proper techniques of fouling that opponent? Do the players know when and when not to use that technique? If not, what changes in philosophy and technique are there to defend the opposition in this scenario?


Does your team know your philosophy if you are the team that just scored to either tie the score or put your team up (by one or two or three points)? Does every player know what defense you expect them to be in? Do they know whether they are supposed to be in a full court press and what specific half court defense they are to be in to protect the lead and ultimately the game? Do you have a set philosophy to teach your players so that they will be successful?

The next situation a team must recognize defensively is the actual score and what type of shot do they want to deny and what kind of shots (if any) are they willing to concede. Don’t expect your players to read the your mind and know exactly what you want. If the score is tied or ahead by one or two, most likely the staff wants their defensive team to be in their most efficient defense. If your team is ahead by three, there must already be a decision as to whether to foul the opposition to burn time. Knowing your team is under the limit of team fouls can give the defensive team a huge advantage, if the philosophy has already been established AND the players know ‘how to properly foul’ in those circumstances. A definite philosophy should be agreed upon by the coaching staff in the preseason and then thoroughly taught to all players in the program, so that there is no doubt or hesitation in anyone’s mind as to what to do during the intense situation.


Do you have a philosophy and a defensive plan to guard against the opposition’s shots when they are in the same type of situation?   One defensive philosophy is not to guard the offensive “Trigger” while another theory is to substitute and put in the tallest defender you have on their “Trigger” to help deny the in-bounded pass. Another philosophy is to trap the first pass that is made to the receiver in the deep corner, while another defensive thought is to remove the defender on the “Trigger” and place that defender either in the lane, as a centerfielder or to double-team and deny the most likely in-bounds receiver?. Defensively, do you advocate any of these theories? If so, have you practiced those situations?


Do you have an organized plan of action when the opposition is the team that is shooting the free throws? Do you believe in “icing” the opposition’s free throw shooter late in a close game? If so, how do you do so?   Do your players understand your method? Have they rehearsed and practiced the situation enough? Do you have a specific fastbreak or play after obtaining the ball after the opposition shoots the free throw?

Do you have a philosophy and a value for how important “last shots” at the end of a time period are? If your team succeeds before the buzzer, do you have a “Buzzer Prevent Defense?”


Do you have a defensive philosophy dependent upon the time and score when to start fouling the opposition to make the last possessions a “free throw shooting contest?” Does the coaching staff have a system of determining whom to foul? Do the players know how to foul the opposition? Late in a game that you are behind, when the stopping of the clock and defensive pressure is extremely valuable, is it important to you to substitute your defensive specialists and/or “foulers” into the game for offensively-skilled players only when the opposition has possession of the ball? If so, how do you get your offensive scorers back into the game when you obtain possession of the ball? If it is important to have specific players in the game for specific situations, what techniques do you use to achieve that and have you practiced those techniques with your team? Should you have a plan? Does the coaching staff then have a pre-set plan on what players on their team fit those three categories?


Devising a philosophy and specific defensive plan for the many scenarios requires a great deal of time, effort, imagination and creativity by a coaching staff. Its creation and development can be much more fruitful and valuable when it is done in the off-season versus trying to manufacture a hasty plan in the middle of an actual game. Winning and losing the game sometimes is just the difference of one decision or of one (correctly or incorrectly executed technique). Winning just two games that could have been losses can drastically turn the outcome of an entire season around. A team that ends up with a 16-10 record seemingly has a totally different season when they could have had a 18-08 record.

If the coaching staff develops a sound philosophy on the different scenarios that can (and will) take place in games during the course of the season, the next step is to thoroughly teach every player that philosophy. Utilizing the last ten to fifteen minutes of practice of most practices for these many different game situations can be a very invaluable asset for a defensive basketball team. This investment of time and energy provides players with the required repetitions for a team to understand and improve the skills needed to be successful.   During the season’s practices, the appropriate techniques can then be fully explained, taught, and practiced with the players and the entire coaching staff. This makes everyone involved more prepared and confident in the defensive plan of action. Remember the cliché, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Succeed in those important scenarios with POISE.



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