Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Great Time to Make a Defensive Change

I was watching the Timberwolves Shootout in the Target Center yesterday, and something that happened in the game between Henry Sibley HS and Madison Memorial HS I thought was worth writing about.

Later into the second half, the game had been bouncing between a tie and a one basket Memorial lead. But after a Sibley made basket to tie it up, Coach Dasovich from Sibley called a time out. I assumed he was changing defenses and he came out in a 2-3 zone. It was a great move at the time because up until that point they had played straight man to man. The 2-3 totally threw Memorial off their game for a few posessions and allowed Henry Sibley to take the lead.

I am a fan of changing defenses from time to time (but having a great base in something), and thought it was a great move to use the defensive change to break that stalemate of being 2 down, tied, and 2 down again. I think when you change defenses like that there are some things to consider however:

1. What are the strengths of the team we are changing defenses against? If they are great passers, it wouldn't be wise to run a zone trap. If they are having an amazing night shooting, running a pack it in 2-3 zone isn't the greatest idea (unless you have the athletes and/or length to close out). Change to a defense that your opponent may struggle with a little and plays away from their strengths. Madison Memorial wasn't shooting all that well and was scoring a lot of points on the inside. So with Sibley's length and size, going 2-3 made it hard to get the ball inside on the drive or the pass.

2. Has your oppojnent seen you run this defense a lot? If you run a lot of man to man and 2-3 zone, changing to your 2-3 is an fine thing to do, but may not be as effective if your opponent knows you and has spent time preparing for the 2-3. I think Madison was shocked that Sibley actually went 2-3 for that period of time and it really took them out of their game.

3. Does this opponent play against this defense normally? If you are playing a team with 2 6-10 centers and poor shooters, they likely see a ton of 2-3 and have ways built into their offense to work through it (on the other hand maybe they are horrible at it, but in that case you play 2-3 lots of the game then...). They may not be as phased by a 2-3 as they would some other defense like a 1-2-2 trap. Also, if the team itself plays a lot of this defense it is going to be harder to run it because they likely practice it in their practice using their zone offense, so they get extra reps against the defense you are running on a daily basis. Madison's confusion may have come more from the fact that they were not expecting Sibley to go 2-3 in this situation.

So overall, I think switching defenses for a short while from time to time is a great thing. It's like a pitcher that has a great fastball, but also has a nasty changeup that can make people look silly if they are not ready. You can be great at one defense, but sometimes you need to throw some change ups to people in order to be successful.

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