Today's Theme - Why Games are Lost
Let's examine why we lose games. I'm talking about what actually happens during a game... not lack of preparation and other outside factors, even though these are very important too. And let's also put aside the obvious here... your opponent is simply much better than you.
Main reasons why games are lost:
1. Turnovers - Bad Decisions
2. Bad Shots
3. Lack of Defensive Pressure, Lack of Hustle
4. Not Blocking Out, Not Rebounding
5. Not Getting Back Defensively
6. Stupid Fouls
7. Failure to Play as a Team
Turnovers - Bad Decisions - On offense, every possession must be valued. The goal of every possession is to get at least one good shot (and more if we attack the offensive boards)... but at least one good shot (or two free-throws) each trip up the court. Notice that I did not say that we will score each time, because that is unrealistic. But we must value each possession, protect the ball, and get a good shot... each trip. Various violations, turnovers (traveling, 3-seconds, illegal screen, etc.) and bad passing get in the way of achieving our goal of getting a good shot. See "Reducing Turnovers"
Bad Shot Selection - If you take a lot of contested shots, forced shots, off-balance shots, etc, your shooting percentage will plummet. Good defense can force you into bad shots as players become impatient and try to force the issue. And then there is the occasional player who is only concerned about his point total that game... but let's forget him for now. Throughout the season, in practice, define for your players what is a good shot and what is a bad shot.
What is a Good shot?
1. The shot must be expected by your teammates.
2. The shot must be able to be rebounded by two of your teammates.
3. The shot must be able to let our defense have a chance to get back in transition after it is taken.
4. The shot must be a high percentage shot for the shooter taking the shot.
5. The shot is dictated by time, score, and situation.
Let's look at the last one, #5 above. Firing up a 3-point shot early in a possession, late in the game, when you have the lead... is a poor shot, even if it luckily goes in. It would be better to run some time off the clock, get a high-percentage shot or get to the free-throw line. In this situation, most successful teams will either get the ball inside to their best post player, or have their star perimeter player attack his defender off the dribble. Get inside or get to the line!
Lack of Defensive Pressure, Lack of Hustle - Tough defense and rebounding will win most close games for you. I saw a high school team win a state championship a few years ago mainly by their great rebounding and defense... they could score too, but were only a little above average on offense. We want to contest every shot and pressure the ball. Keep the ball out of the paint. Force a bad shot, bad pass or a turnover... and then rebound. It's one shot (contested) and OUT!
Great defense will win those games when your offense is struggling... and you can play great defense every game. No player should ever rest on defense... if you need to rest, rest on offense, or on the bench. Poor defense, giving up easy shots, failing to hustle after loose balls are major causes of losing games.
Not Blocking Out, Not Rebounding - To reiterate... tough defense and rebounding will win most close games for you. It's one contested shot and OUT! No second and third shots... if you give up extra shots, your chances of winning are greatly diminished. When you are on defense, you must have that mentality of wanting to get the ball back.
As soon as the shot goes up, everyone blocks out and rebounds. Failure to block out also results in more fouls... the offense gets the rebound and we foul on the put-back attempt. In my experience, if you lose the rebounding war, you will probably lose the game.
Not Getting Back Defensively - Failure to sprint back on defense, i.e. poor defensive transition, results in easy shots and lay-ups for the opponent. Sometimes players don't sprint back because they are tired... take a time-out, or rest the player(s) on the bench for a couple minutes.
A key in defensive transition is the first two or three steps... often a player will see that the opponent has gotten the rebound, will hesitate for a second or two, and then decide to run back... often too late. Players must learn to immediately recognize the change of possession and make those first few steps quickly. Many coaches teach players to sprint back to the paint, with one player stopping the ball, and the other four players getting one foot in the paint, and then fanning out to pick up the ball or their man from there.
Stupid Fouls - There are good fouls and bad fouls. Fouls in the back-court (i.e. in a press defense), or 80 feet from the basket (i.e. fouling the rebounder) are usually stupid fouls. The clock stops, we walk down the floor and they shoot two uncontested free-throws. You may have to do this late in a game if you are behind... but otherwise, these are dumb fouls.
Fouling the jump shooter is usually a bad foul. Get a hand up, but don't foul... and block-out. Reach-in fouls on the perimeter are not good fouls... instead players should learn to move their feet and get help from teammates on dribble-penetration.
A good foul may be fouling a lay-up or an inside, high percentage shot... these shots must be contested, and occasionally you'll get a foul... that's just the way it is. We don't intentionally foul in this situation, and never want our player to take a "cheap shot" at an opponent going in for a score, but we do want to contest that shot.
Bad fouls early in a game get your players in foul trouble, and then they have to sit. Late in a close game, as your team's foul total builds up, the opponent gets to go the free-throw line and score easy free-throws without taking any time off the clock.
Failure to Play as a Team - If one or two players are just playing for themselves and their own "glory", many of the above-mentioned factors come into play. Bad, forced shots are taken. Attitudes develop and players stop hustling and working hard on defense. Your "star" players may not sprint back on defense, and may loaf of defense. Selfishness results in poor passing and cutting. Players may get angry when taken out the game by the coach. A negative attitude develops on the bench and players are not pulling for and helping each other. Coaches start yelling at their players, and the refs.
A team with twelve or fifteen players playing hard together as one is a tough team to beat. Your "star" players must realize that when the all-conference honors and awards go out at the end of the season, most of those awards go to players on winning teams... not just good individual players... just another way of selling the "team" concept.