game tempo
After having talked about the tactical components of a half court offense, I'd like to
address the concept of rhythm, which is quite different from the timing to which I
have made reference more than once.
With the timing of the action of a player, I refer to making the action coordinated
with the teammate's one, so that, for example, a screen is set for another player,
while this one is getting open and a teammate is in position to pass the ball. Or, as
is illustrated in diagram 1, the step-in move in the low post, must occur when the
ball handler is in a position to pass him the ball, and not when the ball is still on the
help side (diagram 2).
The concept of the rhythm of the action, particularly when referring to a game
action in the half court, points to the speed at which the offensive player and the
defender move. The most evident case is a particularly aggressive and overplaying
defense, to which a frenetic uncoordinated offensive game is counterpoised. In this
case the offense suffers from the rhythm of the defensive action, resulting in a loss
of control, and thus making mistakes caused by a lack of precision.
As can be seen in the execution of 2v2 drills in the construction of any offensive
philosophy, I think it is essential to explain that the offense must never move at the
same speed as the defense.
If the defenders overplay and put too much pressure on the ball, it is vital that the
offensive players slow down their moves, use their body to make contact with the
opponent, and so change speed to cut, get open, etc.
If they do not do this, the defense has the opportunity to overplay, forcing our
players to move away from the positions in which they are more dangerous. An
evident consequence, above all among young players, is that the 5 offensive
players move away from the basket more and more, instead of using a back door
cut or getting open. When they catch the ball, they are very far away from the
basket, and therefore they need more dribbles to play 1v1, favoring the defense
(diagram 3).
The need to not adapt your speed to that of the defender is even more obvious
when setting screens away from the ball. In lesson 03, we stressed how important
it is that the player who receives the screen goes first in the other direction and
then cuts back, giving their teammate the time to set the screen. Usually an
overplaying defense pushes the player to be too fast in his first movement, making
the screen ineffective and even faulty.
Generally, I think it is necessary to teach players, especially the younger ones, that
the speed in which they execute the fundamentals is not the only important speed,
but also the change of speed in going from one position to the other. It is not so
important to pass from a high speed to an even higher speed, but to pass from a
medium speed to a higher speed.
If an execution or an attempt at execution of the fundamentals with or without the
ball at a speed that does not allow us to control the ball or the body or that does
not allow us to have a coordinated game with our teammates harms our precision
and balance. It is far better to be precise in the details, because if we continuously
look to execute at speed, we increase the number of mistakes exponentially.
Having seen a lot of both junior and senior games, we sometimes notice that one of
the two teams is “out of rhythm” that is to say that often it forces offensive
solutions, being too fast in taking the shot and causing an increase in the number
of mistakes. Or, one might get the idea that one of the two teams “is controlling
the tempo better”, proposing quick actions alternated with more controlled ones,
finding balanced shots and therefore converted with an effective percentage, or
guaranteeing frequent occasions of offensive rebounds or easy defensive recoveries
without risking an opponents fastbreak.
At a very young teams level it is not rare to observe the case in which both teams
are unable to control the rhythm of the game and consequently the game becomes
frenetic and full of mistakes.
The concept of tempo of the game has always been very clear for the most expert
coaches and to explain it to our players is of fundamental importance to help our
team to play better.
When we say that a team has controlled the tempo of the game, we refer to some
concepts that are well linked. Let us try to sum them up:
1. The team has played defense, fastbreak and half court offense without
pauses, with considerable fluency, passing naturally from one phase of the
game to another
2. The team (that is to say the players) have correctly chosen when to shoot
during the break and when to play a half court set
3. In the half court set the team has been to obtain good shots without
anticipating, but all teams must work in practice to reach a good level in
handling the tempo of the game
These three points are the answer that our team gives to three exact questions:
1. When should we run the fastbreak and when should we play half court?
2. When should we shoot in our offense?
3. If we want a up-tempo game, how can we obtain it?
The answer to these three questions, are combined helping us to give a complete
interpretation of the concept of tempo of the game.
To find some effective answers, I'll ask the help of three great coaches of modern
basketball, who, with their theories have surely had a major influence on the
development of the game.
1. When should we run the fastbreak and when should we play half court?
Dr. Aza Nikolic, one of the greatest European basketball experts, often pointed out
the need to play long offensive actions after having played a long defensive action.
Or even better, try to hit immediately with the primary break and, in case there is
not a basket, force the opponents to work on their defense.
This idea now consists of shooting in the first 8” of ball control during the fastbreak,
or in the last 8” (after 16 seconds), is common to many coaches and gives the
players a general principle about how to control the tempo.
In this way, we often avoid that the team, after having worked a long time on
defense, gets anxious to score at all costs, forcing an offensive situation and
obviously making mistakes, then being forced to come back on defense for another
24 seconds.
This often happens in the confrontation between two teams: a weaker but more
experienced one, and the other potentially stronger but less self confident. The
first one will try to prolong the offensive actions, and not suffer the opponent's
fastbreak, trying easy solutions towards the end of the 24”. If the opponents do
not have a good feel of the tempo of their action, the game could change into a
never ending hunt for the easy basket using the fastbreak, resulting in the loss of
control of the game.
To improve the link between defense-fastbreak-offense, in practice I often combine
these aspects of the game: for example playing 3v3 or 4v4 in the half court, with a
fastbreak off a missed shot or off a turnover. The team that defended and runs the
fastbreak (diagram 4), will have to score or at least draw a foul to keep the ball,
else they rest, replaced by another four players. So, by simply taking care of this,
a great stress is put on the real value of a steal: the four players who run the
fastbreak know that they must distinguish between a fastbreak and work in the half
court, with a single goal that values ball possession. The four players who steal the
ball know that even if they have made a mistake on offense, with an effective
transition defense, and a concentrated half court defense, they can regain the right
to restart on offense, or they can rest.
For this reason in practice, during the drills, I always use a rotation offense-defense
rest, because in a game after offense there is always a moment of defensive
recovery. We would not be working on concentration is we used drills where the
team can rest after the end of an offensive action, as for example, the common
4v4v4 drill.
It is necessary to remember that after a long defensive action, often the team
which steals the ball runs into an opposing team that has recovered in balance; and
therefore the tactical attitude of the team which has decided to play “a long action”,
has conditioned the tempo of the game.
We will see under “3.” how important it is to have some tactical choices to speed up
the tempo. For now it is interesting to notice that some coaches often stress the
use of the fastbreak if there is a stolen ball (consequently taking advantage of a
possible defensive imbalance of the opponents), or if the rebound has been taken
by a guard who can dribble very quickly into the offensive half court.
These coaches therefore take for granted that if the opponent has kept a good
defensive balance, a traditional fastbreak with a rebound, outlet pass, running, is
seldom organized. They prefer to pass into a transition offense or a secondary
break, instead of trying to force the situation.
2. When should we shoot in our offense?
The very famous Bobby Knight, former head coach of Indiana University and the
Gold Medal winning USA team at the 1984 Olympics, often teaches his players to
make four passes before shooting, in order to move the defense and then to try to
beat it.
The number of seconds available for the offensive action, is certainly an element to
keep into account to value the rhythm of the action in the half court: in NCAA
basketball teams have 35” available, a great deal more than the 24” of the NBA and
FIBA Rules.
Generally, I think that if the ball is reversed at least once from one side to the
other, the defense is forced to move and so it becomes more vulnerable. In the
same way, I think it is important to play one time, as an alternative, the insideoutside game, that is to say to pass the ball to a low post and the to reopen the
game if possible on the help side (diagram 5). This, as mentioned, forces the
defense to collapse and then to spread out, giving the offense some spaces to drive
to the basket or to shoot from outside.
Executing a certain number of passes, playing to change side, playing with the post
“inside-outside”, it should not be simply to keep possession of the ball. It is
essential that the five players continue to attack, being ready to exploit a defensive
mistake or an opening created after however many seconds. We ask the team not
to force anything, especially in the first seconds of the action, but certainly not to
renounce to any valid chance to score.
A typical example of this mental approach occurs when attacking a zone defense.
We ask our players “not to take the first shot”; that is not to take it at the first
pass, preferring to move the zone with some passes and/or dribble penetrations to
make it unbalanced and thus creating better shooting or offense rebounding
opportunities. Some coaches have their players always make a certain number of
passes before shooting, allowing only the lay up as an exception.
Each of us may have particular ideas about this subject: the fact therefore is that to
combine fastbreak and half court offense is not a simple thing, and often we could
force a solution too early, or making the opposite mistake, i.e. not exploiting a valid
chance, while waiting for the time to pass. It is still my idea that a change of side
of the ball, or the “inside-outside” game, are more than enough to move a defense,
and from that moment on, every good solution must be exploited.
I am absolutely against, forcing 1v1 immediately – the equivalent of wanting to
knock down a wall with one’s head.
3. If we want an up-tempo game, how can we obtain it?
Dean Smith, legendary former coach of the University of North Carolina helps us.
Playing a defense that forces the opponent to make frequent mistakes from which
we can start our fastbreak.
It is necessary to delve deeper into this topic: often playing a very strong defense
in the half court is not enough: teams with good fundamentals and organization, if
they don't want to suffer from an opponents fastbreak will play long actions of at
least 20”, actually decreasing the number of possessions for each team, and
therefore opportunities to fastbreak. Against teams that have this tactic, it is
necessary to have defensive means good enough to force the opponent, either with
a double team or other action, to increase the rhythm of the action, more risky for
the defense but for the opponents too.
The University of North Carolina is famous for its “scramble defense”, that often
tries to double team the man with the ball, both if he receives a pass (diagram 6)
and if he drives to the basket along the baseline (diagram 7). This is not the place
to get into details on similar defenses with double teams. For us it is enough to
know that Coach Smith's goal is to try to steal the ball, cause a dribbling or passing
mistake, or forcing the offense to take a hasty shot, if possible with players who are
not the first or the second offensive option on the team. In any case we at least
obtain that the offensive team decides to shoot sooner, giving back the ball to our
team to go on offense.
Decreasing the average duration of plays, the number of possessions would
increase for the team that wants to play the game with a higher tempo: an
aggressive defense with double teams would have at this least secondary effect.
The same result can be obtained with an aggressive full court defense (man to man
or zone) or with a half court pressing zone like for example a 1-3-1 with double
teams (diagram 8).
What I want to stress once more is that it is impossible to solve the question
concerning the tempo we want to have in the game if we do not consider in a
general way the relation among defense, fastbreak and offense. This relation of
these three elements is circular, that is to say that each one of theses elements is
linked to the others (diagram 9).
If we produce many steals, or we force the opponent to make a mistake, we will
have fastbreak opportunities with easy baskets. If we do not score easily, playing a
half court set without forcing anything means that we will shoot balanced shots
under control, guaranteeing ourselves, in the case of a miss, a good defensive
transition without risking an opponents fastbreak.
At this point, the circle closes again, because without giving up any easy baskets,
our opponents will have to attack with much more psychological pressure in our
half court.
The control of the tempo is therefore a combination of technique and the
psychological approach to the game, where confidence and self-control are decisive
elements to be better than the opponent.
Individual action rhythm: never move at the same speed as the defender. It
is better to use the change of speed to get open and catch the ball.
(Video of 1v1 with a clear change of speed)
Tempo of the game is a concept that includes the offensive fluency in the
half court, offensive and defensive transition, and defensive aggressiveness.
To decide which kind of tempo we want and how can we control it, we need
a. know when to run and when to maneuver in the half court
b. when we think it is useful to shoot during the half court offense
We must have an aggressive defense taking risks if we want to speed up the
tempo against a team that wants to keep it slow.
(Video of a full court press)
The fastbreak is born out of a strong defense.
comes out of a balanced offense.
A valid defensive balance
Diagram 1
Diagram 2
Diagram 3
Diagram 4
Diagram 5
Diagram 6
Diagram 7
Diagram 8
Diagram 9
As we have already mentioned in previous lessons, I always work with my teams
looking for the highest level of intensity and game tempo possible. This is both in
all of the individual and team plays that the team will execute. Speaking about a
constant high level of intensity does not in any way mean executing every move
at full speed.
Once this premise has been defined, I have to clarify that it is not productive for
a player to execute every move at full speed (or the same speed) nor that a team
is constantly pressuring at the same level and running the same plays. If this is
the case, our opponents will become accustomed to our play and will adapt,
rendering most of our work unproductive. It is necessary to differentiate two
aspect of game tempo: the tempo of the move and the tempo of the game
The moves or cuts that our players develop and that will eventually define our
team play both on offense and defense, must be executed in the appropriate
tempo and speed so that they are coherent with those of their teammates: both
for the player in possession of the ball and those without.
The change of pace in individual moves both technical and tactical, allow good
timing to exist in or teams plays. We will achieve a maximum global intensity in
our play (defensive and offensive) by applying a correct speed in coordination
with the rest of our teammates when executing the various individual moves.
Once the appropriate speed is applied correctly to individual moves and cuts, we
have to work using drills to help define our philosophy. This philosophy will be
applied globally to everything that we do, whilst reserving the capability to make
minor adjustments when necessary but never in an involuntary fashion.
I believe that if you demand the best it will always be possible in certain
moments to use certain tactical details that are related to a slight “reduction” in
our maximum intensity. I am in no doubt that doing it the other way around is
impossible: if your team is not accustomed to working at the highest intensity
every day, then they will b incapable of doing so on the day that you ask them to.
As I have mentioned, our players will play at the highest level by using drills on a
daily basis that encourage this style of play and reinforcing our philosophy in
practices, games, player substitutions, and what we specifically ask from each
In this manner we define the style of play that will enable us to dictate the game
tempo that we wish to play at. It will never be possible to do this 100%, as the
opponent also plays and will try to impose his own preferred game tempo.
We will come across opponents who wish to slow down the game as much as
possible, other who only wish to run and shoot the three, and finally some who
are capable of playing at different tempos. The ability to play at a high intensity
will be decisive in order to impose the game tempo which is most convenient in
each moment and it is the great teams who are capable of achieving this.
Overall philosophy
24 seconds rule
Offensive rebounding
Transition Defense
Defensive rebounding
Fastbreak / transition
We must make the basic philosophy that we wish to apply during the entire
season very apparent to our players, and also to our league, the general public,
referees, and to all organizations that are involved in the competition
This philosophy can vary between that of a team that wishes to play with high
intensity, with short possessions based on a high tempo to that of a team that
looks to take advantage of the opponent’s errors and playing long possessions.
The definition of the philosophy does not mean that we must play the same way
every game, but it is a clear declaration of our intentions.
Once we have our philosophy set we will define (using drills at practice and then
executing this during games) at which level of intensity we will play.
Substitutions, defensive rotations, change up defenses, the tempo at which
players execute, decision making on offense and defense etc will be the keys to
decide this.
The 24 seconds rule sped up the game tempo in general and increased the
number of possessions per game. At the same time the fear of excessively
speeding up the game tempo and therefore expose the technical limitations of
players caused many teams to look to find tactical reasons for slowing down the
game tempo.
We can start to create the game tempo from whichever side of a circle which
describes the team play. Going aggressively after the offensive rebound and
obtaining good positions before doing so will be one of the ways in which on the
one hand the capture of these rebounds will guarantee more offensive
possessions, and on the other will stop our opponent from starting his fastbreak
in the way he prefers.
Putting some pressure on the opponent’s point guard, if he is good at leading the
break and is the only player who can bring the ball up the floor, would also be a
good way of taking the opponent out of his preferred game tempo, and therefore
have their more under our control.
Going aggressively after the offensive rebound cannot adversely affect our
defensive balance which, will also be one of the keys to taking our opponent out
of their preferred game tempo and will initiate our defensive work.
In order to have a good defensive balance this does not only mean running back
quickly to defend. If our five players on the court have their roles very clearly
defined, we can go after the offensive rebounds and also pressure the outlet of
the ball so that when our opponents arrive in the frontcourt they have already
exerted energy physically and mentally. You will see some examples in the video
(Clip 01).
Our defense begins at the moment we fail to capture an offensive rebound and in
my opinion we should try and tire our opponent with constant pressure on their
transition. After this we try and prevent the ball from arriving in the hands of
their preferred players and if it does we do not want them to play 1v1. We
achieve this using defensive rotations and if necessary double teaming their go to
players in their preferred positions.
This defensive aggressiveness can be applied when playing man or zone defense,
as well as either quarter court, half court, three quarter court or full court. You
will see examples in the video (Clip 02 & 03).
The defensive rotations and double teams make it difficult for the opponent to
create the scoring opportunities for their go to players, but it is also true that
they create certain mismatches when defensive rebounding and this has to be
solved by a great deal of communication amongst the five players on court and a
lot of movement by all of them.
It must also be clear that the rebound is not the responsibility of the inside
players (3 / 4 / 5). The outside players have to participate in a very proactive
manner, bearing in mind also that a defensive rebound by one of these players
(1 / 2) leads to a much quicker and usually more efficient fastbreak, looking to
Once we have the rebound my teams always try to bring the ball into the front
court as quickly as possible for three main reasons: we are looking to score
quickly and easily, not lose any time transitioning to our half court offense if the
fastbreak has not finished with a score, and also very importantly it does not
allow our opponent to rest between their offense and defense.
Creating a constantly high amount of pressure on our opponent we can, despite
whatever limitations our team may have, control as much as possible the game
tempo. Evidently doing the opposite by slowing down the game and waiting for
our opponent to commit a mistake can reduce the game tempo, and if this is
what we are looking for allow us to have control of the game tempo.
In the summer of 2000 the shot clock was reduced from 30 seconds to 24, and the
time in which it was necessary to cross the half court line was reduced from 10
seconds to 8.
With this new rule many coaches decided to extend their defense to at least three
quarter court with the aim of taking away some time from the offense. If the
defense was able to make the offense work hard for 6-7 seconds to bring the ball
up the court, this left only some 16 seconds in which to run an offense.
The choice then to either defend half court man to man or zone brings more
problems to the offense as they have to “read” the defense and run an appropriate
play, creating difficulty in maintaining the desired game tempo. Finally the use of a
denial defense forces players who may be the fourth or fifth options on their team
to shoot the ball, with the obvious results this brings about. The alternative to
using a full court defense is to increase the use of zone defense.
Having less time available to penetrate the defense creating holes where attackers
can go is something that affects the offense and the successful conclusion of such,
with teams often resorting to taking the first available shot, particularly if this is a
three point shot. This way many zone offenses have become entirely dependent on
shooting a high percentage, foregoing the possibility of patiently looking for
opportunities at the high post or inside the restricted area.
Contrary to what we saw prior to the shot clock rule change, coaches have been
using more tactical resources, forcing their opponents to think about controlling the
game tempo even more. Having less time available to find a good shot emphasizes
the need to be a threat from the very start of each offense.
When the shot clock was 30 seconds, the first two or three passes in the offense
were only introductory passes that only resulted in a basket had the defense made
a big mistake. Only after these “approximation” passes would the ball find its way
into the hands of the most dangerous players. A classic example is the use of
staggered screens, something that was very popular in the 90s to get a specific
shooter open (diagrams 1-3).
With the 24 second shot clock it is very dangerous to make five passes before then
looking to get the ball into the hands of your best scorer. This is more so the case
because if we have the ball in a great shooting position after a few seconds, where
is it written that we will get a better opportunity later in the possession? Also, due
to the denial defenses used by many coaches to freeze out strong players, it is
important for us to get the ball in the hands of our better players early in the
offense. This way we will have the time not only to finish the play but also to
create an advantage over the defense which eventually will allow a teammates shot
in the best possible conditions.
People often comment that the 24 seconds shot clock has given increased speed to
the game. It is understood that this is not so much in reference to an increased
use of the fastbreak but to a different approach to offensive philosophy. Plays have
become more simple looking for an advantage, often using a ball screen (diagram
4), with the intention of finishing the play immediately or following ball reversal
(diagram 5).
Offenses are based more on concepts than on specific set plays as was the case in
the past. Knowing how to feed the ball into the low post to take advantage of a
possible double team (diagram 6), taking the correct position on the court in case
dribble penetration occurs (diagram 7), knowing the correct choice between a shot
or a pass after a ball reversal are some of the most used offensive concepts in the
last few years compared to the set offenses used prior to 2000. Another aspect
that has developed since the 24 second shot clock came into vigor is that of
baseline out of bounds plays.
Many coaches have looked to achieve a more fluid transition between the fastbreak
and the half court offense, allowing all five players to advance up the court rapidly
and take positions from where they are an immediate threat (diagram 8). The
positioning of the five players should be such that if met by an aggressive defense
they can attack it without being surprised (diagram 9). If the players are well
spaced the ball can be moved rapidly around the court against any defense, and at
the same time allow spaces for dribble penetration to occur.
An offense that is well structured throughout the entire length of the court can be
dangerous after having beaten the first line of defense without having to reorganize itself, an action for which there probably is not enough time anyway.
A good example of this can be seen in diagram 10 where the first line of the press
is beaten using three outside players. Once the ball crosses the half court line, if
the defense has successfully recovered the offense immediately look to get the ball
into the low post in order to create spaces for players to cut and dribble penetrate
into. If the rapid ball movement has forced the defense to collapse into the
restricted area and prevent O4 to play 1v1, it is possible to create another 1v1
opportunity this time for O1, with the ball coming outside and the trailer O5 setting
a ball screen for O1 (diagram 11). The efficiency of an offense based on concepts
and reading the defense is based on having good fundamentals and recognizing
space and time; the introduction of the 24 second shot clock has had a significant
impact on the improvement of the game.
Having 24 seconds available with which to shoot the ball it is wise to
aggressively attack the basket from the first available opportunity.
(Video of a quick cut by an outside player)
Look to get your best players involved early in the offense, who in the case
of having an advantage over the defense can also create a scoring
opportunity for one of their teammates.
(vides of an early feed into the low post leading to 1v1)
Today offense is based more on concepts and correct execution than on set
plays. Because of this it is very important that all players have strong
Diagram 1
Diagram 2
Diagram 3
Diagram 4
Diagram 5
Diagram 6
Diagram 7
Diagram 8
Diagram 9
Diagram 10
Diagram 11
There is no doubt that the rule change from a 30 second shot clock to a 24 second
shot clock brought about many changes in FIBA basketball. We will go into these in
detail but it is worth noting that almost all teams that in the past played passively
waiting for their opponents error rather than aggressively looking to steal the ball,
and on offense played a very tentative game fell down from the leading positions in
their national league tables, as well as from competing for honors in Europe.
The new 24 and 8 second rules meant that the rest periods between playing offense
and defense disappeared completely. If coaches wished to maintain a high
intensity for their players on the court they had to increase their substitutions and
the number of players participating in the game.
As well as this, the players who were on the court were more tired and so therefore
committed more fouls and more mistakes both on offense and defense. Another
reason for an increased frequency of substitutions.
Following the rule changes many coaches chose to increase the defensive pressure
on the point guard bringing the ball up the court, something which tired out his own
team as well as the opponent. Another reason for increasing the number of players
participating in the game.
Finally the go to players on offense who with a 30 second shot clock were able to
rest on court now found it a lot more difficult to stay on the court for 40 minutes.
This forced coaches to read the game in another way, looking for the best moments
in which they could rest so they could be on the court, rested and without foul
trouble in the key parts of the game.
We can start with defense in order to demonstrate the changes that the new rules
brought about. As I have already mentioned the general tendency was an increase
in pressure defenses to delay the start of the opponents offense.
Once the opponents primary and secondary break was stopped, half court defenses
would double team the low post, rotate and switch between man and zone defenses
with more frequency.
Regardless of whether teams would use a man or zone defense (or even just put
some light pressure on the ball handler coming up the court) the 24 second rule
has increased the number of full court pressure defenses used. The goals for this
may be:
1. Steal the ball
2. Delay our opponents offense
3. Tire both physically and mentally the players who control the game tempo
and handle the ball for our opponents
If the offensive team is able to pass the ball into the low post this is usually a
success because it is a position from which scoring opportunities can be created
and it forces the opponent to take decisions to avoid playing 1v1 without any help.
Playing with a 24 second shot clock, forcing this ball to be passed back out again,
ideally using the most complicated passing lane is one of the main goals. It is for
this reason that helping in the low post or double teaming are quite common.
Defensive rotations are the next unavoidable step after having helped in the low
post and their goal should be to make the pass out as difficult as possible in order
to further delay the opponents offense as well as make the ball arrive in the hands
of one of the opponents least dangerous offensive players.
Defensive rotations cause players to tire very quickly. Years ago the defensive
players on the help side did not work very hard and took advantage of the ball
being on the opposite side to recover from their offensive efforts. Defensive
rotations force all five players to be on high alert during the entire possession both
mentally and physically and do not permit any recovery time.
Because many teams now play with 4 players on the perimeter, defensive rotations
that in the past only involved 3 perimeter players now also affect a fourth player.
Switching on all off ball screens, changing between man and zone defense, different
types of zone defense and other tactical resources have become more effective with
the 24 second rule because when executed correctly they can surprise our
opponents, forcing them to lose a few vital seconds when attempting to run their
Once our team has gained possession of the ball either through a good defensive
effort (steal or defensive rebound) or following a basket, the majority of our team
makes a big effort to get the ball in the frontcourt therefore creating the highest
amount of pressure on the opponent both physically and mentally.
The primary break is no longer sufficient as a method to score easy baskets. It is
equally important to put pressure on our opponents forcing them to sprint back and
get balanced defensively by transitioning smoothly into our half court offense
without any interruption.
A few years ago the interruption (to recover or get organized) took place when
transitioning from defense to offense by brining the ball up the court more slowly.
Once the point guard had the ball there he would signal the play and then the half
court offense would begin.
Nowadays many teams combine their break with their half court offense (which
could be a set play or a motion offense) without any interruptions. If this offense
does not create a scoring opportunity for one of the go to players then the ball is
kicked back out (normally to the most creative player) who will play pick & roll or
1v1 to create an advantage for himself or for a teammate in a better position. It is
when the ball is kicked out and the team gets ready to play pick & roll that there is
a stop in the game tempo.
As we have already mentioned the most common characteristics in half court
offenses are the following:
1. It tends to be interwoven with the fastbreak and with transition
2. The amount of time between the transition and the half court offense has
been significantly reduced
3. The time spent on running a set play has also been reduced and so the
offense tends to be a single action or a motion offense that if it does not
succeed allows time to find a quick and direct option
4. The ball is often passed into the low post so that a 1v1 situation exists or an
advantage is created if the low post is double teamed and the ball is kicked
out followed by a defensive rotation
5. The quick hitter (direct option) often consists of a pick & roll. The ball
handler tends to be the most creative player on the team
The offensive rebound has become a new way to put pressure on the opponent.
Sending two or three players after the rebound (depending on the characteristics of
the opponent and your own team) not only will lead to some easy putbacks or new
possessions, but also to begin defensive pressure as soon as possible and prevent
easy transition baskets by our opponents.
Defensive balance following the attempt to capture the offensive rebound is used to
avoid the opponents fastbreak. If defensive balance is achieved, then teams will
also put some pressure on the opponent’s point guard to delay his arrival in the
front court and to avoid an easy basket.
As we can see, the different concepts that we have highlighted as key factors in
order to control the game tempo are factors that at a higher speed and intensity
become essential in order to play comfortably using the 24 second shot clock.
(Video 1)
(Video 2)
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