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How to coach, teach and use a basketball pivot defense inside and out with help side support

Whenever the pivot player is defending on the perimeter, he has the same responsibilities as any other defender. Consequently, Coach Smith’s 4 on 4 drills, which bring the post men outside, as well as inside the perimeter, benefit them as they do the other players.

Under game conditions, when the pivot defender is guarding a man at a high, or medium, post he does not leave his man to help.

The high post is side-fronted on the ball side. The medium post can either be side-fronted or completely fronted; therefore, unless his man is out on the perimeter, the pivot defense will still have his arm and part of his torso between his ball and the man. To do this with confidence, however, the defensive center must know he has help from behind.

Basketball man-to-man pressure defense diagramIn Diagram D-7 we pick up the action where we left it in the Diagram D-5. The only change made is to add offensive and defensive players #5.

In keeping with the rule, defender #5 is fronting #5 on the ball side. This situation allows us to show how the help man provides assistance defending against the lob pass.

Offensive #4 has the ball and defender #3 is in the lane. As soon as he sees the lob-pass coming, he crosses the lane in an effort to draw a charge or steal the ball. On the pass, defenders #1 and #2 pack in the lane. It is important to note that defender #4 has a special responsibility here. The more pressure he can put on #4 making the lob, the less likely the pass can be completed. This is the most effective method at stopping the lob pass.

Principle #3: When a dribble penetration occurs, the defender closest to the man guarding the dribbler must give help on the drive.

The Support Drill

This drill, illustrated in Diagram D-8, teaches many things; however, it is mainly designed to teach each player how to help stop dribble penetration to the basket. The defender one perimeter pass away from the ball must move his feet quickly to help his teammate stop the penetration and then move back to his own man. In moving to help when a penetrating dribbler comes into the heart of the defense, the helper must keep his own man in his field of vision.

The offensive players in the drill are told to simply dribble, penetrate, and pitch. The drill, incidentally, provides the offensive players with some good zone offensive work that complies with NBA Coach Delmar W. Harris’ Coaching Basketball Zone Offenses, Parker Publishing Co., in 1976.

Coach Harris once coached little Dale, Indiana, High School to some pretty impressive records. To start the drill, #1 again has the ball with defensive #1 up on him. #1 dribbles hard into the gap between defensive players #1 and #2. Defensive player #2 must now switch from his overplay position on #2 and support teammate #1 in an effort to stop the dribble. Defender #2 keeps his own man, #2, in clear sight and moves back to him after stopping #1’s penetration.

Basketball man-to-man pressure defense diagramThe defender, one pass away, has many responsibilities. He is in a tough situation. His first job is to keep his man from getting the ball; however, at the same time, he must help on the dribble.

"Help and get back," is a key phrase in Coach Smith’s defensive work, and one that he constantly used with players to remind them of their dual responsibility. The help rule, however, works both ways. The helper knows that he himself will get help when he needs it.

After defender #2 stops #1’s penetration and #1 pitches to #2, defender #2 recovers and gets help from defender #4 as #2 begins his dribble penetration. Should #2 get by defenders #2 and #4 on the penetration dribble, defender #3 should be in the lane, ready to help as the back-up man.

If defender #3 commits himself to stop #2, defender #1, the weak side guard, must move in on #3. This is called, helping the helper. Perhaps this possible, although unusual, occurrence illustrates what is meant when the man-to-man pressure defense is a helping-type defense.

Principle #4: The defensive player in the lane must cross the lane to help stop baseline drives. When this occurs, the weak side guard moves in to help the helper.

Diagram D-9 is a continuation of Diagram D-8. The ball is now with #4 in the corner. Teach your players, when guarding a man on the sideline, to make him go wide with his dribble. Defensive player #3, already in the lane, is responsible in stopping a baseline driver from getting into the lane. At this point in the drill we want #4 driving the baseline in order to teach defender #3 his responsibility of crossing the lane with both hands held high. Defender #1 must move deeper in order to help the helper and protect the weak side. Defender #2 jams the basket area, as well.

Basketball man-to-man pressure defense diagramBasketball man-to-man pressure defense diagram

Contrary to some defensive philosophies, we feel that the baseline is a good place to trap the ball. This principle is illustrated in Diagram D-9. Another factor to note is there are few passing angles open to #4 at the point defender #3 stops him. On the other hand, if he had let #4 drive toward the middle, #4 could have passed in either direction. This is a good place to pick up a charge on the baseline drive if defender #3 gets to #4 outside the lane. Most referees call it blocking if contact is made inside the lane.

Principle #5: In almost every instance we want the defensive player to stay within the line of ball principle.

In Diagram D-10 #1 has the ball and begins a penetration dribble in the direction of defender #2, a one-pass-away man.

At the same time #2 moves up in the direction of the mid-court line; however, he is still one perimeter pass away from #1. What does defender #2 do?

He knows he must help defender #1 stop #1’s penetrating dribble. Also, he has been taught to get back to his man one pass away to prevent that pass. #2’s move into the high position now makes it impossible for defender #2 to complete both objectives.

The line of ball principle resolves this conflict. To determine the line of ball we visualize a line drawn through the ball from sideline to sideline. Defender #2 will not move far from that imaginary line in pursuit of #2. He waits and helps on the penetration, instead.

If #1 wishes to pitch back to #2 beyond the line of ball, simply let the pass go and rebuild the pressure defense at that point.

In a dribble-used situation, the line of ball principle does not apply. If #1 picks up his dribble, defender #2 would forget the line of ball in an effort to get his man to reverse himself toward the basket.

Continued on next page:

Related Articles:
 How to coach the basketball man-to-man defenses
 Variations of the full-court man-to-man defense
 Drills for teaching the full-court man-to-man defense
 Differences in guarding the players who are one-pass or two-passes away
 Pivot defense inside and out with support
Transition drill: guarding against the back-door cut and All-Purpose drill
Keeping score of four-on-four drills and breaking them down

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