Newsletter #229

December 22, 2021

Today's Quote:  "Winning is about having the whole team on the same page." - Bill Walton


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Today's Theme:  End of Game Strategy

Coaching strategy near the end of the game can be critical in close games.  Coaches differ on what to do, but here are a few thoughts which might trigger you to think how you might handle these situations.  Here are just a couple scenarios.

Game tied and you have the ball

Hold for the last shot and try to get that shot with 3 or 4 seconds left, so you have time for an offensive rebound and a second shot.  But warn your players not to get the over-the-back foul on the rebound.  It takes some of the pressure off the shooter if he doesn't wait until the buzzer.  Have the ball in your best scorer's hands.

Try to get the ball inside for the high percentage shot - you may get the shot, or get fouled and win it at the free-throw line. If you have an outstanding outside shooter, you can go "inside-out", passing the ball into the low-post, sucking the defense inside, and then kicking the pass out to your perimeter hotshot for the game-winner.

If you need to, call a time-out to instruct your players on your strategy. But realize that when you call time-out, you risk having your inbounds pass stolen.  Even better, work on this and other game situations in practice and be able to call it from the bench without using a time-out (unless you need to stop the clock).

Less than 4 seconds and you have the ball going the full-length of the court, see "Full-Court Buzzer-Beaters"

A few seconds remaining and you have the ball at half-court, see "Half-Court Buzzer-Beaters"

Game tied and you are on defense

Make sure players know their defensive assignments.  Be sure to get help-side defense on their star players.  Contest the shot with hands up, but do not foul, unless it looks like an easy lay-up - then make them win it on the free-throw line, which is not always easy late in the game with the pressure on and fatigue a factor.

Some coaches will try to take a charge on dribble-penetration.  My experience is that unless it is a really obvious charge, you won't get the call from the ref when the game is on the line.

If you have fewer than 5 team fouls, play very aggressive defense.  If the opponent waits until the last few seconds to make the move to the hoop, you could foul (unintentionally) the ball-handler.  Since they are not yet in the bonus, they must reset and inbound the ball with just a second or two left.  If you still have 5 or less team fouls, you can be very aggressive in defending the inbounds pass - each foul will harass them and cost them time on the clock.  This is just one reason for playing defense without fouling - the entire game.

If you get the quick steal in transition, attack the basket immediately without calling a time-out to set up a play.  Chances are, in transition, you will get a good shot, or get fouled.  If you get the defensive rebound with 5-6 seconds left, get a quick time out to stop the clock and set up your last play.

Another gutsy strategy is if the opponent is not in the bonus, immediately foul a poor/mediocre free-throw shooter.  If the free throw is missed, you get the rebound and now you have the advantage. I would not attempt this if the opponent is in the double bonus, or if there is less than 10 seconds left - you may not have time to score after the made free throw(s).

For more late game strategies (e.g. you are behind, or you are protecting a lead, or you're up by 3 with less than 8 seconds left and the opponent has the ball, etc), see Coaching Game Strategies.


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Put in a new offense or defense this season.
Run a special inbounds or buzzer-beater play and look like a genius!
Use a special defense to shutdown a star player.
Teach your team how to break a press.

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