Today's Theme - Attacking the Pack Line Defense
The pack-line defense is a sagging man-to-man defense developed by Dick Bennett, and is used by his son Tony Bennett at UVA, Chris Mack at Xavier, Sean Miller at University of Arizona, and others.
Briefly, the pack line defense pressures the ball while the other four defenders stay inside the imaginary pack line arc and clog the seams and paint. Off-ball defenders give early help on the dribble-drive and invite you to shoot 3-pointers off the drive and kick, with the assumption that your shooters can't make enough 3-pointers to beat them. Pack line defenders generally play cutters and screens physically, and the pack line usually forces a slower-paced tempo with fewer offensive possessions.
So how can we attack the pack line defense? Here are some thoughts...
Quick Offensive Transition/Fast-Break - The pack-line is a tough defense to attack and requires patience once you are in the half-court set. Attacking with up tempo transition and an early attack creates problems for the pack-line. So get the ball up the floor quickly before the defense can get set.
Spacing - To help open the gaps for the dribble-drive, and to stretch the defense to get open 3-pointers, you must space your perimeter players out on the arc. In starting your offense, run the wings deep into the corners and go 4-out. Basket cutters should complete their cuts by filling all the way out to the arc and avoid clogging the paint and baseline. Similarly, players involved in screens should get good separation and spacing after the screen. Dribble-at/back-cuts help create spacing and defensive movement and confusion.
Drive and Kick - You have to be able to dribble-drive and kick out to the open teammate for a 3-pointer. But a couple caveats first... don't try to dribble-attack after the first pass to the wing. Use a ball-reversal before dribble-attacking. The dribble-penetrator has to do so under control, and realize that he/she will probably not be able to get to the hoop. Instead, when the help comes, the dribbler may have to make a jump-stop and pivot, and pass to the open man. And then your shooters have to be able to hit some outside shots. Attack the offensive boards for put-backs.
Using the principles of Jerry Petitgoue's dribble-drive zone offense may also be a good way to attack the pack line defense.
2 or 3 Good Shooters - Since the pack line defense wants you to shoot 3-pointers, put two or three of your best outside shooters on the floor and let them shoot. If they can hit some three's, the pack line will have trouble and the opponent may have to change defenses.
The Importance of the Weakside - Creating offensive actions on both sides of the floor helps occupy and confuse the inside help defenders. Run weakside flare screens. I really like screening the back side of the defense and using the "pin and skip". Pin (back-screen) the help defenders in the paint, have a good shooter flare to the opposite wing-corner area, hit him with a wing to wing skip pass for the open shot. Backside screens and skip passes get the defense moving.
Also run shooters off of screens (e.g. double staggered screens) on the weak-side of the floor.
Screening - In addition to weakside pin-screens and double staggered screens, you can used dribble hand-offs and ball-screens. Realize that after a ball-screen, getting to the hoop may be difficult. So think about slipping the screen, or popping wide to an open spot, or having the ball-handler split the screen. Additionally, if the defensive help defender shows early over the ball-screen, the dribbler could refuse the screen. Screen and re-screen.
Attack the baseline - The pack line does not usually force to the baseline, but instead tries to deny it. The baseline attack is a potential weakness of this defense. A good time to attack might be after a skip pass. We have found our "Runner" zone offense to be somewhat effective, again if your baseline runner is a good shooter.
Use a Zone Offense - If you think about it, the pack-line is very much like a match-up zone defense with pressure on the ball and helpside players off the ball playing like a zone in the paint. In addition to our "Runner" zone offense, we have occasionally found that just running our normal 2-3 zone offense works.
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