Basketball Defenses – Half-Court Defense(s)

Basketball Defenses – Half-Court Defense(s)

Categories of Half-Court Defenses:

  • Man-to-man defenses
  • Zone defenses
  • Combination “junk” defenses
  • Half-court presses and traps
  • Defending inbounds plays
  • Press Defenses

Select a basketball defense(s) that fits your team’s personnel, size, quickness, strengths, and your defensive philosophy. Some coaches simplify and stick to the same defense all season and try to perfect it. Other coaches will try multiple defenses switching between man-to-man and zone defenses, hoping to confuse the opponent and counter their strengths.

I have seen coaches go man-to-man anytime the point guard made the first pass to the right side, and go 2-3 zone whenever that first pass went to the left side. Some coaches will change defenses after a made free-throw, or after a time-out, or will call out defenses from the sideline. The main thing… in trying to confuse the offense, make sure your own players aren’t the ones who become confused

First and foremost, you really have to work hard on defense in practice, and instill the mind-set in your players.

Man-to-Man Defense

Man-to-man defense has each defender assigned to defend a certain offensive player – his or her “man”. Sounds simple enough, but great man-to-man defense is much more than that.

On-ball defenders contain the ball while adjacent defenders “hedge” in the seams to stop dribble-penetration. Defenders two-passes away from the ball drop off their man into “helpside” defense. So away from the ball, man-to-man defense looks a lot like a zone defense, while you have a defender pressuring the ball. If your players are less athletic, consider the “pack line” defense.

My personal belief is that all young players MUST learn how to play man-to-man defense. Even high school teams that play zone defense will be stronger defensively if every player can play pressure, on-ball defense. Understanding helpside defensive principles makes learning zone rotations easy for most players. See:

Man-to-Man Pressure Defense… this article has everything required for man-to-man “team” defense… on-ball pressure, deny, helpside, preventing dribble-penetration, defending the post, cutters, screens and out-of-bounds plays. Two trapping tactics (“Red” and “Side-Fist”) are also presented. The animation is very helpful.

Basic Man-to-Man Defense… the basic principles.

Trapping the Low Post… defending a dominant post player.

Pack Line Defense… a sagging man-to-man defense that helps protect the paint and deny dribble-penetration.

Bob Kloppenburg’s SOS Pressure Defense – 3-part series:

Overview of the SOS Pressure Defense – an overview of the SOS defense from legendary NBA coach Bob Kloppenburg.
Bob Kloppenburg’s Half-Court SOS Pressure Defense – details of the half-court SOS pressure defense.
Bob Kloppenburg’s Full-Court SOS Pressure Defense – SOS defense – transition and full-court.

Defense for the Last Few Seconds of the Game… defensive strategies for the end of a close game.

Defending Screens… over, under and ice techniques vs on-ball screen. Also inside post screens, lateral screens, down-screens, back-screens, etc.

Defending the Pick and Roll… from Coach Joao Costa.

Defending Without Fouling… become a disciplined team that doesn’t foul.

Defensive Tips… basics for players.

Defensive Intensity. Turn up your defensive intensity by Charting Deflections.

Drills for Teaching Man-to-Man Defense:

Breakdown Drills for Teaching M2M Defense… breakdown drills for teaching man-to-man pressure defense.

Shell Drill… helpside, deny, hedge, on-ball positioning.

M2M Positioning Drill… helpside, deny, on-ball positioning.

Defense 1-on-1 Drills… defending 1-on-1, on-ball defense.

Defensive Close-Outs and Drills… how to close-out on the ball.

Trapping Drills… learn to trap.

Take the Charge Drill… rotate and take the charge.

3-on-3 Competitive Defensive Drill… improve your team’s intensity.

Zone Defense

Zone defense differs from man-to-man defense in that, instead of guarding a particular player, each zone defender is responsible for guarding an area of the floor, or “zone”, and any offensive player that comes into that area. Zone defenders move their position on the floor in relationship to where the ball moves.

Their are advantages and disadvantages. You can often stop dribble-penetration and protect the paint with a 2-3 zone, but you’ll get less pressure on the outside. See “Zone Defense” for details. Zone defenses can be categorized based on the defensive set that you use (2-3, 1-2-2, 3-2, 1-3-1, etc). Rebounding out of a zone defense is also important.

Specific Zone Defenses

2-3 Zone Defense… protect the paint and stop dribble-penetration. But watch out for those outside shooters. You can play a sagging type of 2-3 zone, or a more aggressive, trapping 2-3 zone.

Coach Marshall’s 2-3 Zone Defense… over 40 years of success and knowledge go into this 2-3 zone defense. Also see Breakdown Drills for Teaching the 2-3 Zone Defense.

Dave Robbins Circle Defense… Coach Dave Robbins’ Circle zone defense (2-3 and 1-2-2 zones).

Buzz, Twilight Zone Defense… a novel way of playing the 2-3 zone defense by playing in the passing lanes.

1-2-2 and 3-2 Zone Defenses… with the 1-2-2, pressure the ball on the outside arc, allow for some trapping, but you leave the high post, middle of the paint, and corners open. Close the high post by adjusting and switching to a 3-2 zone.

1-3-1 Zone Defense… apply pressure on the outside arc and high post, and allow for some trapping, but you are vulnerable inside and in the corners. Two styles are presented, a conventional more conservative zone, and a more aggressive, trapping style.>

Amoeba Defense… a gambling, surprise tactic zone defense.

SWARM Defense… ball pressure, stopping the dribble, circle rotation from coach Wayne Walters.

Point-Zone Defense… pressure the ball, protect the paint, confuse the offense.

Defense for the Last Few Seconds of the Game… defensive strategies for the end of a close game.

Match-up Zone and Combination “Junk” Defenses

Match-up zone is a “combination” defense, combining elements of man-to-man defense (on-ball), and zone defense (away from the ball). This is a zone defense that acts a lot like a man-to-man defense.

The on-ball defender closes-out and pressures the ball. The zone away from the ball resembles man-to-man “help-side” defense. Match-up zones have specific rotations and assignment rules. You can confuse the offense by changing your starting defensive set. The opponent may be unable to determine if you are in a man or zone defense.

“Junk” defenses are defenses designed for special situations, and you would never base your entire season’s defensive scheme on junk defenses. But they can be helpful in certain situations. Defending a team with superior talent or a star player is always a challenge, and a junk defense may help. Some of these defenses include the “triangle defense”, the “box-and-1”, “diamond-and-1”, “triangle-and-2”, “inverted triangle-and-2”, “1-3 and a chaser”, and “3-1 and a chaser”.

Combination Zone Defenses

Match-up Zone Defense… important principles, rules, different sets.

1-3-1 Match-up Zone Defenses… a detailed 1-3-1 match-up zone from Coach Ken Sartini.

Junk Defenses… defending the star player, “box-and-1”, “diamond-and-1”, “triangle-and-2”, “inverted triangle-and-2”, “1-3 and a chaser”, and “3-1 and a chaser”.

4-1 Chameleon Defense… unusual 4-1 helf-court defense from Tyler Whitcomb.

Triangle Defense… a defense for defending a star perimeter player.

Half-Court Press Defense, Traps

Starting your defense at (or just beyond) the half-court line can confuse the offense, result in turnovers, steals and lay-ups in transition. It can disrupt the normal flow of the offense, making it difficult for them to get into their offense. Any press is a gamble that you might give up an easy basket, but half-court presses are less risky than full-court presses since your have all five defenders back in the half-court.

Some teams half-court press the entire game, or until the offense shows they can beat it. Some teams use it intermittently, as a surprise tactic.

Additionally, within in the framework of our basic man-to-man pressure defense, we will at times “Red” (aggressively trap) the point guard O1 as he/she comes across half-court, or after our point defender forces O1 to one side, or on an on-ball screen, or whenever O1 is dribbling too much.

Half-Court Zone Press Defense

Viking 1-2-2 Half-Court Press… a very effective 1/2 to 3/4 court trapping press if you have three quick athletes (X1, X2 and X3) who play aggressively.

2-2-1 Half-Court Press… another half-court trapping press defense.

Defending Out-of-Bounds Plays

Choose between man-to-man or a zone defense in defending out-of-bounds plays. Some teams simply defend all baseline out-of-bounds plays with a 2-3 zone. This packs the paint area, and will help nullify screens and prevent inside lay-ups. However, there are inbounds plays designed to attack the 2-3 zone

Using man-to-man defense, we have several rules. First, “step under” and switch any inside screens. The screened defender steps under (back toward the baseline one step) to get inside position on the screener, in order to avoid getting pinned. In addition, deny the pass inside by having your inbounds defender play a “one-man zone” off the ball in the paint. The inbound defender drops off the inbound passer into the paint, looking to deny any pass inside and lay-up. Once the pass goes outside, he/she must go quickly with his man, the inbounder.

Advantages of a Good Press Defense

A good press can create back-court turnovers, steals and easy baskets for your team. So it is an offensive weapon as such, and a way to come from behind, or a way to break open a close game, and a way to wear down a slower, not well-conditioned opponent.

It may help nullify the opponent’s “bigs”, who may labor to get up and down the floor. You can turn the game into a track meet, rather than a slow-down game that favors the opponent’s big post players.

The press keeps the opponent off-balance, changes the tempo of the game, and often has the opponent doing things they don’t normally like to do. It often forces the opposing coach to use valuable time-outs. It favors a well-conditioned team with a deep bench, and with more substitutions, allows more of your players to get playing time.

Disadvantages of a Press Defense

A fair amount of practice time is required to develop a good, cohesive press. Also, remember that any press is a gamble (especially trapping defenses). You risk giving up the easy transition lay-ups, and you have to be willing to accept that fact.

If your players are not well-conditioned, fatigue can become a factor. Your players may be more apt to foul and get into foul trouble, so a good bench is very valuable in this regard, as well as the fatigue issue. You might want to press only in certain situations (e.g. after a made basket), or certain times of the game, as a surprise tactic.

Full-Court Man-to-Man Pressure Defense

Full-court “pressure” defense is simple man-to-man defense extended over the full-court. This defense is excellent for youth teams who must learn to play man-to-man defense, and it is easy to teach, requiring less practice time than other press defenses.

Players use and learn the same basic concepts of man-to-man defense – on-ball, deny and help-side defense, just extended to the full-court. There is little risk, or gambling, with this defense. This press would probably be less effective at higher levels where good ball-handling guards could break it down.

Bob Kloppenburg’s Full-Court SOS Pressure Defense – transition and full-court aspects of the SOS defense.

Zone Press Defense

Zone presses have the defenders start in a certain formation, such as a 1-2-1-1, 1-2-2, 2-2-1, etc. and feature pressuring the ball and trapping. You can categorize zone presses by where the press starts on the court:

  • full-court (“80”), with a defender guarding the inbound passer
  • 3/4 court (“60”), with nobody guarding the inbound passer
  • half-court (“40”) where the press starts at, or just beyond, the half-court line

Specific Zone Presses
1-2-1-1 “diamond” zone press… try to tip the inbounds pass, trap the first pass in the corner, or along the sideline. Vulnerable along the sidelines at half-court, but you can adjust to a 1-2-2 (but then there is no defender back deep as a safety).
2-2-1 zone press… allow the inbounds pass (to the corner), get the ball-handler to commit, and then aggressively trap and rotate.

Match-up Press Defenses

Our match-up press defense is a more complicated “system” of presses compared to simple zone presses and involves a fair amount of practice time. We begin teaching this system at the freshmen and JV levels, and fine-tune it at the varsity level. It has the advantage of always having pressure on the ball no matter what press-breaker the offense uses.

The match-up press is different from a zone press in that we have our defenders all match-up with someone when the ball is inbounded… much like man-to-man defense. So it doesn’t matter what press-breaker the opponent uses. Techniques such as “cut & double”, “run & jump”, and “run & double” are presented.

Full-court (“80”) presses of various alignments (1-Up, 2-Up, 3-Up and 4-Up), as well as a “staggered” press are discussed. Additionally, two deny presses, “81” and “61”, are presented. Use these drills “Match-up Press Drills”, and see “Teaching Basketball by Progression”.

Half-Court Press Defenses

Half-court presses start at, or just beyond, the half-court line. These presses are less of a gamble, since all five defenders are back in the half-court. These defenses trap the ball as it comes across half-court, in the half-court corner on either side, while the other defenders look to intercept a poor pass made out of the trap. These presses are usually easier to teach and conditioning is less of an issue.

Deny Press Defenses

“Deny” presses are used to deny the inbounds pass, hopefully resulting in either intercepting the inbounds pass, or getting the 5-second call. Defenders play in the passing lanes between the ball and their man.

A deny press is needed in a close game, in an attempt to get the ball back after a made basket, or whenever the opponent has to inbound the ball. It can also be used from time-to-time during the course of a game as a surprise tactic. Several deny presses are presented as adjustments to a main press.

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