Analyze most every game at every level and you will notice that basketball is a game of scoring bursts, which are more commonly known as runs. It seems that both teams will often go along either trading buckets or defensive stops and play even for awhile until one of them eventually goes on a run and scores six or eight straight points.
In some games opponents will take turns going on these runs. In other games one scoring burst is the difference between winning and losing.
Our goal each game is to NEVER go three straight possessions without scoring and to NEVER let our opponents scores three straight times. We feel that if we can accomplish these two goals then we will the game of runs and ultimately win the entire game itself.
(Taking this a step further, we strive to score at least three straight possessions seven times during the course of the game and also look to get three straight stops seven times.)
We talk about these two goals constantly throughout the year but have found a way to really emphasize them during our pre-season practices.
We divide our squad into two teams and then scrimmage for 15 minutes. During that scrimmage we sit on the sideline and keep track of every single possession. (If a team shoots the ball but misses and gets an offensive rebound that is still the same possession.
If the ball is knocked out of bounds and the offense keeps the ball then that is also still the same possession.) If at any point, the offense scores three straight times, we immediately stop the scrimmage and make the defense run a "half back - full back." If the offense ever goes three straight times without scoring, then we stop the scrimmage and the offense runs.
Now after two straight empty possessions we will yell a warning out to the offense, "Ok Green (our away jersey color) you HAVE to score!" This tells the offense that they must score and therefore need to make sure that they get a great shot by ideally their best shooter. It also reminds them to crash the offensive boards and keep the possession alive if necessary.
We will warn the defense as well after two straight scores. "Let's go White. We need a STOP!" This reminds the defense to refocus on their technique, talk, help each other, not to foul, and to box out! An offensive rebound keeps the possession alive for the offense and a free throw (score) is going to send the defense running!
Scrimmaging this way creates several interesting scenarios. As an example, let's say Green has gone down twice in a row without scoring but White has scored twice in a row. Now Green needs a stop AND a score to keep from running. Being able to "man up" and win these two consecutive possessions is extremely game like, especially in late game situations when every single possession is critical.
After scrimmaging this way several times in the pre-season, our players begin to take better care of the ball, look to feed the hot hand, and better understand the impact of offensive rebounding.
Then when the games start and we yell from the bench, "Let's go Green. We need a STOP!" Or "We have to score White!" those aren't just empty words but they are an encouraging reminder that as a team we've practiced this situation over and over before.
Win the runs and you'll most likely win the game!
by Dave Stricklin