Posted by Coach Dave Stricklin on May 29, 2015
Many coaches have an offensive "end game" philosophy that they use to guide their decisions and actions during crunch time when the game is on the line. This philosophy usually dictates whether they want their players to get to the rim, jam it into the post, or shoot a jump shot depending on the time and score.
Those coaches who are most prepared may even have a predetermined catalog of preferred set plays that they occasionally practice throughout the season just in case they ever need them at some point. However, fewer coaches have a defensive end game philosophy already in place. As a result, when the game is hanging in the balance the best instruction these coaches can give their players is something along the lines of "Get out there and play good defense and get a stop!"
Not only does this not give your team any kind of advantage in crunch time situations but it doesn't give them any confidence either and it could actually cause some players to overthink what needs to be done.
Since none of these scenarios are good, consider the following ideas when developing your own end game defensive philosophy.
1. Don't get beat by your opponent's best player. Trap or double team him as soon as he touches the ball and make him pass it to someone else. When he does pass out of the trap make sure one of the defenders stays with him and denies a quick return pass. To avoid any confusion determine beforehand whether or not you want the original defender to stay or if the trapper stays. Either way your opponent's best player cannot get the ball back under any circumstances!
2. Know how you are going to defend the pick and roll. When everything else breaks down many teams resort to the pick and roll and for good reason - it works! Are you going to trap the ball screen? Will you have the ball handler's defender slide under the pick or fight over the top? Should the screener's defender hedge hard, take a step back, or "jam" the pick to completely prevent the screener from rolling? Everyone must be on the same page because even the slightest defensive breakdown can get you beat.
3. Teach everyone how to use their fouls wisely. A foul 80 feet from the basket might not be a good foul in many situations and neither is a foul committed as the shot clock is winding down to zero. However, a clean, strong foul that stops a breakaway dunk or layup might be a great foul - especially if your team isn't in the bonus yet. Every player on your squad needs to know when they are expected to foul and when they are expected to give ground. Likewise, are you going to foul when up by three points so your opponent can't get a game tying shot off or are you going to play it out? At what point do you start fouling in order to get the ball back and hopefully lengthen the game?
4. Predetermine how you are going to defend all out of bounds plays whether they originate underneath the basket or on the side. Switching man to man? Straight 2-3 zone? Show one defense and then change after the first pass or dibble? Think like an offensive coach and then strive to take away how you would want to score.
There are almost any many defensive philosophies as there are defensive coaches so what you decide to do isn't a matter of right or wrong. The important thing is that you (and most definitely your team) have an idea of how you are going to approach those situations long before they actually happen.