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How to coach and teach the basketball scissors-cut play
(aka 1st cutter and 2nd cutter)

The most common three-on-three play in basketball is splitting the post, scissoring off the post, or first cutter and second cutter. This play utilizes an inside screen and a rear screen. It involves the high post man and both guards, or a medium pivot player with a forward and guard on the ball side of the court.

The high pivot man moves into a position in the outer half of the free throw circle. As he reaches the position, the ball is passed to him by either guard. The pivot man moves toward the ball, catching the ball with both feet in the air and landing on both feet simultaneously and facing mid-court, his back to the basket, with well balanced foot spread. In this manner either feet can be the pivot foot. This player should be extremely protective of the ball. itís a good idea to tuck the ball under his chin and spread the elbows wide. Itís most always crowded in this area. Hesitating slightly, the passer cuts first following his pass, cutting close off the pivot man. The second guard cuts closely behind the moving first cutter in the opposite direction, timing his cut so that his defender is impeded in the crossing maneuver.

Play #5 shows the basic cut

Scissor 1 - Basic Movement

This play involves two guards 1 and 2 and the center, 5. Guard 1 passes to 5, cutting to the outer half of foul circle and cuts to the right. Player 2 fakes a step toward the right, then cuts to the left. The passer is always the first cutter, going to the outside of the pivot. The other cutter cuts behind the first cutter in a scissors movement.

Scissor 2 - Basic Movement (used with a shot over double screen)

Player 5 receives a pass from player 2, who moves in his normal scissors movement to the outside of his pass. Teammate 1 fakes a cut to his left and completes the scissors. Defender 1 slides back behind offensive player 2 to negate the effectiveness of 2's cut. Teammate 1 stops, receives a pass from teammate 5 and shoots an 18 foot jump shot over the double screen set by teammates 2 and 5.


Play #5 Scissors cut shot over screen option

Rule: Pivot players must always catch the ball with both feet off the floor and land simultaneously on both feet comfortably spread. This way, either foot can be the pivot foot. Also, they should pass with both feet on the floor.

The pivot player must be quick to read the defensive reactions to determine whether the first cutter, or the second cutter, will be in the better scoring position. Also, he must be aware of his own defenderís reaction.

After handing off to either guard, the pivot player should step toward the basket with the foot to the side of his hand-off and move quickly toward the basket. This step opens his body toward the ball side, allowing a quick return pass if his defender switches to the cutter. It also brings him into good rebounding position in case the cutter, or man in possession of the ball shoots.

It is easy to neutralize opponentís defensive tactics used to upset the scissoring action by using optional splitting the post maneuvers. Some defensive post players will overplay to the side where the play is initiated, expecting the second cutter, who will come this way to receive the pass. The post defender can step in and draw the charge. The offensive pivot player should see this defensive shift with a slight turn of the head and peripheral vision. A good fake handoff and a drop step with the foot opposite the defenders position and a one bounce dribble will usually get the post player an easy layup.

Play #5 Scissor Cut - Basic Movement (Shows pivot technique)

Scissor 3 - Basic Movement (Shows pivot technique)

Player 2 has passed to 5 and started his cut. The pivot man, 5, observes his defender move to the right in anticipation of 2's cut. Upon seeing this defensive manuever, teammate 1 delays his cut. Player 5 pivots on his right foot and steps toward the basket with a long left stride. He may either (1} dribble in for a lay-up or (2) take a jump shot.

Many guard defenders in a scissors attack will drop back about a step in front of the post player and switch on the crossing guards. To neutralize this tactic, the second cutter can change direction immediately after starting his cut behind his teammate and go through on the same side of the first cutter. Or the first cutter can stop in front of a defender on the same side as he passed instead of crossing, and the second cutter can stop behind the double screen formed by the post player and other guard for a medium range jump shot.

Play #5 Scissor Cut - Movement (When defenders anticipate and switch prematurely)

Scissor 4 - Movement (When defenders anticipate and switch prematurely)

Player 2 passes to 5 and cuts outside his pass. Teammate 1 starts his cut behind 2 and sees that 2's defender has stopped following 2 and that his own defender will pick up teammate 2. Player 1 immediately changes direction and cuts on the same side as the pivot as did his teammate.

The scissors movement can also be used by a medium pivot, the forward and a guard on the ball side of the floor. Usually, the forward makes the pass into the pivot and cuts first with the guard timing his cut behind the forward. This action opens up many good shooting opportunities. If the forward receives the handoff pass as the first cutter he is in excellent range for a short fake and jump shot. The guard cutting behind the forward, is also in good short jump shooting range if the defense drops back, and the guard could also continue in to the basket for a lay-up.

The pivot should step to the basket opening up toward the ball. He will have inside position if his defender switches. Many shooting opportunities for step-away one-handers, hook shots, or turn-around jumpers may be available to the pivot player.

Rule: It is important that the two players not involved in these maneuvers, lure their defenders away from the point of attack and retreat so that good defensive balance is maintained should the ball be intercepted or possession is lost in the rebounding action.

Play #5 Scissor Cut - Movement (Using the center by a guard and forward)

Scissor 5 - Movement (Using the center by a guard and forward)

First, forward 3 passes into the pivot, 5, and cuts to the outside of his pass. Next, teammate 1, the guard fakes and cuts off 3's movement.

Coach McCutchan spent 10 minutes every day perfecting the many and varied scoring opportunities this play presents. It was always one of his stations around the court we use to begin each practice. It is a good idea to start early in the season with no defense, then add defenders soon as players understand the varied scoring opportunities. Practice 3 against 3 and 5 against 5 as well, always stressing defensive balance of the court.


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