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How to coach, teach and use the basketball 2-1-2 strong side combination half-court defense

This defense utilizes the strengths of both zone and man-to-man defenses. It is a good defense to use against penetrating guards. The back three men play a triangle zone while the front two defenders play man-to-man against two outstanding opponents.

The zone players should permit outside shots but prevent penetration and close-in shots, all the while maintaining a defensive rebounding position. The two players playing man-to-man should either pressure the ball or cut-off all passing lanes. The can switch on crosses by the good offensive players, unless the game plan calls for a different coverage.

The triangle men should double-team either good two offensive players when they are in the defensive area of their particular zone. When pressure is applied man-to-man at half-court, the three zone players should be close enough to opponents to cut off passing lanes to them without leaving the basket unguarded. Should one of these opponents receive the ball, his defender should apply pressure in an effort to cause a ball-handling error.

This defense has three weaknesses:

  1. If either of the 3 players being zoned is a good three-point shooter.
  2. If one of the three being zoned is a good pivot player.
  3. If opponents  are allowed to penetrate the back line of the zone from the weak side.

This defense has three strengths:

  1. A good defense against two good ball handlers.
  2. Presents good fast-break opportunities.
  3. It allows the two players playing man-to-man to take chances.
  4. It allows for very aggressive play.
  5. The nonconformist superiority of this defense makes it an effective surprise maneuver.
  6. It has team defensive elements that allow backboard control.
  7. It keeps pressure on the ball.
  8. It has excellent defensive coverage near the basket and the pivot area.
  9. It allows a coach to improvise. He can vary this defense by using three players man-to-man out front with a two-man zone in back; or he can have the front play zone while the back line plays man to man.
The floor is divided in half by an imaginary line. Players 1 & 2 play man-to-man against the two guards while the three other players use a triangle zone around the basket.

Offensive player #1 has the ball, therefore the defensive player #1, assigned to him plays him tight and aggressively.

Meanwhile defensive player #2, assigned to guard offensive #2, aligns himself on the imaginary line between the ball and his defensive assignment.

At the same time, defensive players #3, #4, and #5 are in a standard triangle zone defending opponents in their area. 


Offensive players #1 and #2 attempted to execute a give-and-go. Defensive player #3 moved out to pick up the player with the ball while defensive player #1 stayed with his assignment.

Notice that Offensive player #2 has moved to the strong side of the court; therefore defensive player #2 is now playing him man-to-man.

Defensive player #5 is preventing an easy pass into the high post and defensive player #4 is looking to intercept a possible skip pass to offensive #4


Continued on Next Page

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