I don't usually like to point out defensive mistakes but tonight I thought this play here to end the third quarter did the Hawks in. I went into the game thinking that the Detroit Pistons should give me plenty of opportunities to take good clips of good offense and defense, but the game was pretty sloppy by both teams. It was one of those games where the Pistons got a big lead, then forgot that they still have 1 more half to play, and let the Hawks back in the game.

This defensive lapse to end the third quarter turned the tide of the game and the Pistons would not look back. It's one of those plays that as a coach, you look back at the film and you just feel like getting all the players onto the court and go through a shell drill. Hawks forward Joe Johnson said this after the game, "We got right back in the game, but what hurt us was when they went back up 11. We spent so much energy to get back into the game that it was tough to go from there." Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Lazy Initial Trap:

The play starts out innocently enough. Billups has the ball at the top of the key, passes to Tayshaun Prince on the wing. Tayshaun counts down the clock a little. Then X1 and X2 start to close in and attempt to trap, that's when things start to go bad,

If you're going to trap someone, it has to come hard. You can't trap partially otherwise, you've just put your defense at a numbers disadvantage once the ball is passed out. The Hawks basically set a lazy trap.

Bad Communication, Incorrect Rotation:

If the Hawks communicated properly on defense, they could've actually recovered OK on this play, despite the bad trap.

From the diagram, it's clear what happens. X1 and X3 get confused on the rotation and they both rotate to Chauncey at the top of the key once he gets the pass back from Tayshuan. X2 then attempts to rotate over to O3 by cutting underneath. All of this of course is bad news.


By now, of course the Hawks are in a whole lot of trouble. Everyone is caught out of position. Chauncey does a quick dribble to draw the defense in even more, then kicks it out to Tayshaun who has dropped a little to the free-throw line extended.

As in the diagram, it's clear that both Tayshaun and O3 are open once Chauncey has the ball. There are 2 open guys that result from the bad rotation. Can you imagine leaving 2 open jump shooters? In the NBA, that's basically conceding the basket.


If you're team is having similar defensive breakdowns, the best way to correct and nail down the rotations is the simple shell drill. It really is the best way to make sure your players know where they should be for every single situation. It's suitable for all skill levels.

The new DVD from coach Geno Auriemma on the Four Cornerstones of Half-court Defense is really a must see, regardless of whether you are coaching men or women. As usual, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes.