Newsletter #152

January 16, 2019


Today's Quote:  "We can't win at home. We can't win on the road. As general manager, I just can't figure out where else to play." - Orlando Magic GM Pat Williams years ago when struggling through a tough season.

Today's Theme... Attacking the Pack-line Defense

More and more teams are using the pack-line defense, a sagging man-to-man defense that pressures the ball while clogging the paint and preventing the dribble-drive. 

Briefly, the pack-line defense on-ball defender 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. Pack line defenders generally play cutters and screens physically, and the pack line usually forces a slower-paced tempo with fewer offensive possessions.

Here are some thoughts on how to attack the pack-line.

Quick Offensive Transition/Fast-Break - 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, space your perimeter players out on the arc. Start with the wings deep into the corners (4-out). Basket cutters must complete their cuts by filling all the way out to the arc to 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 - dribble-drive and kick out to the open teammate for a 3-pointer, but not after the first pass to the wing. Get a ball-reversal before dribble-attacking. The dribble-penetrator has to realize that he/she will probably not be able to get to the hoop, but will pass to the open man when the help arrives.  Attack the offensive boards for put-backs.  

2 or 3 Good Shooters - put your best shooters on the arc 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.

Importance of the Weakside - creating actions on both sides of the floor helps occupy and confuse the inside help defenders. Run weakside flare screens and the "pin and skip" (screening the back side of the defense). Pin (back-screen) the help defenders in the paint, have a good shooter flare to the opposite wing-corner area for a skip pass for the open shot. Backside screens and skip passes get the defense moving.  Also run shooters off double staggered screens on the weak-side of the floor. 

Screening - In addition to weakside pin-screens and double staggered screens, use dribble hand-offs and ball-screens. Getting to the hoop after a ball-screen may be difficult, so think about slipping the screen, or popping wide to an open spot, or having the ball-handler split the screen. Screen and re-screen.

Attack the baseline - The pack-line usually forces to the middle, not the baseline. The baseline dribble attack is a potential weakness, especially after a skip pass. We have found our "Runner" zone offense to be effective 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.

See "Attacking the Pack Line Defense" for diagrams and details.


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