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Techniques to beat pressure defense

This is an excerpt from Basketball Offenses & Plays by Kenneth Atkins.

Several specific points are integral to attacking a press successfully. Coaches should address the following important techniques during the instruction of breaking pressure defenses.

Throwing the Ball Deep
The inbounder places his or her shoulders perpendicular to the baseline (parallel to the sideline) when heaving the ball deep from the end line. The back foot is on the same side as the throwing hand to provide a strong base from which to hurl the ball long with authority. This technique also permits the inbounder to step into the throw. The lead foot cannot touch the baseline or sideline. The inbounder may elect to run the baseline after the opponent completes a successful field goal or a free throw drops through the net. He or she might step slightly back off the inbounding spot to put more room between the throw-in and the defender.

Clearing Out
Clearing out is an effective tactic whenever the defense applies man-to-man pressure. The other four players allow the player with the ball to use a maximum amount of space. They swiftly vacate the backcourt while watching to make sure that their defenders do not race to engage in a trap or run-and-jump action against the ball handler. The ball handler exhibits patience against a man-to-man press. The player waits for his or her teammates to clear before dribbling the ball up the court. The only exception is if the lane forward is clear after a pass reception. If the coach is not confident in a player's ability to handle the basketball against pressure, then he or she instructs one or more players to secure possession of the ball in the backcourt. Teammates clear out after an acceptable ball handler gains control of the ball.

Executing Against Double Teams
Handling double teams or run-and-jump maneuvers from an opponent is critical to combating pressure defenses successfully. The player with the ball recognizes potential trouble spots such as down a sideline or turning back to the defense. The middle of the floor is the most difficult area for the defense to trap because the ball handler can make shorter passes and therefore has more options. The ball handler keeps his or her head up and the dribble alive if possible. The ball handler avoids turning his or her back to the defenders. The reverse dribble invites traps. Any player trapped by the defense regularly seeks to split defenders if possible. Players away from the ball hook up in open areas in front of the ball whenever their defenders leave to become involved in a trap, run-and-jump move, or defensive rotation. Players do not stand and wave their arms, waiting for the ball to come. Once the ball handler makes a successful pass out of the double team, the team has a numbers advantage. Players attack the basket unless they are holding the ball to protect a lead or the coach wants to keep the tempo slower.

Using the 2-1-2 Press-Break Formation
Teams employ the standard 2-1-2 press-break formation against any full-court or three-quarter-court zone press. The configuration has a built-in pressure release. The weakside deep player reads the amount of pressure on the ball handler and does one of two things. If the intensity of the trap is light, the weakside deep player is likely to remain on the long diagonal from the ball handler. If the pressure is high, he or she races down the sideline area to the gap between the safety player and the middle player. He or she gets open for the player under duress. The player in the middle is active. He or she seeks out the open area ahead of the ball, generally within the lane area. The player deep on the strongside sideline may sprint to the ball if the ball handler is in trouble. Otherwise, the two deep players remain ahead of the player in the center.

Receiving a Pass
When receiving a pass against pressure, coaches tell players to “run over the ball.” This directive means that they come meet the pass from a teammate. Squad members do not wait for the ball to reach them. By decreasing the distance that a pass must travel, players reduce the likelihood that a defender will shoot the gap and intercept or deflect the ball.

Getting the Ball to the Middle of the Floor
Against zone presses, coaches stress getting the ball to the middle of the floor, where a trapping defense is most vulnerable. The player operating in the center of the floor in advance of the ball is a high-priority target. The team looks to send the ball to that location. The middle player remains active and finds an open spot. He or she “runs over the ball” to decrease the length of the toss and reduce the chance of interference by the defense. After the player secures the ball, he or she turns to face the offensive basket and looks to pass ahead (usually down either sideline) if possible. The player does not dribble until he or she has made a pass evaluation. If the pass is not available, the ball handler is free to advance with the dribble. The only time it is appropriate for the player to put the ball on the floor while making a quick turn is after a defender tries for an interception or deflection and misses. In that case, the player in the middle is able to dribble immediately while heading to the offensive basket. He or she attacks in anticipation of getting a quality shot.

This is an excerpt from Basketball Offenses & Plays.

More Excerpts From Basketball Offenses & Plays