Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org
Applying a pressure defense is a common strategy among basketball teams around the country, which is designed to disrupt the rhythm of the opposing offense, speeding them up and forcing mistakes. This can come in the form of zone press, full-court press, man press, or simply consistent trapping throughout the game. Regardless of the type of defensive pressure that you are facing, having a gameplan to counteract that is essential.
Force Their Hand
A common strategy used by teams attempting to slow down a pressure defense is by taking as many timeouts as possible and stopping play. While this can be effective in crunch time situations, it is not always necessary.
To take advantage of their quickened defensive schemes, design plays that are just as fast as theirs. Charge the basket and create easy finishes. This puts them on their toes when done effectively, and displays confidence on the offensive side of the ball, disrupting their rhythm and turning the tables.
A high-pressure defense is one that is going to be reaching for the ball as frequently as they can without drawing fouls. Poking and swatting a limply-held ball will almost always result in turnovers. Ensure players are holding the ball with strength, and with both hands.
Simultaneously, players should be in a position of strength, squaring up their defenders immediately upon catching a pass. Otherwise, the defender will get in the face of the player with the ball, taking up as much space as they can and forcing the ball handler to pivot backwards. Being in an advantageous position (with at least a foot between the ball and the defender) will allow players to pivot and dribble, shoot, or pass.
Defenders in this scheme are almost always going to be looking to jump passes and disrupt passing lanes in general. For that reason, simply faking passes is going to be an effective move in throwing the defense off. However, the fake must be convincing.
Any skilled basketball player can sniff out a fake pass if it isn’t well hidden, as they typically read the eyes of the ball handler. For a truly deceptive fake, square your shoulders towards one player and extend your arms. As soon as the defender jumps, quickly fire the pass over to an open teammate.
Getting open against a pressure defense will not be a simple task. Jogging around the paint to try to find an open spot will do no good. Get away from your defender by making hard cuts. Much like route running in football, a fast cut in the opposite direction will create space for a short period of time. The cleaner and better these cuts are, the more the defense will worry about individual players rather than the ball, thus creating offensive opportunities.