Just when it looked like the Los Angeles Sparks would walk away with the home win, they let it all slip away with crucial turnovers and some bad decisions down the stretch. Credit to the New York Liberty, they made some big shots, including a few big 3-pointers for the comeback victory.

I want to look at these 2 critical plays with less than 3 minutes left in the game. The Sparks had a lead heading into the 4th quarter, but squandered it away with costly turnovers. At this point, 3 minutes left, the Sparks are behind by 7, then 5. But Coach Michael Cooper makes the ill-advised decision to press the Liberty. The problem, is they don't have the fast guards to keep up with Lelani Mitchell. Take a look,

Don't Press if You Don't Have the Quickness:

I maybe a little harsh on Coach Cooper, but it's actually something I see a lot of at the lower levels too. You cannot full-court press a team that has superior speed to you. It just won't work. You need players, specifically guards, that are at least as quick as your opponent. Take a look at these pictures, in both cases, Mitchell has already passed hip-to-hip and the defenders are in a trail position,

In this picture, Tameka Johnson can't keep up with Lelani and unnecessarily fouls her, putting the Sparks over the limit and 2 FTs which Lelani hits.

Nothing is more demoralizing then after you've just executed nicely on offense to cut to lead to 7 or 5, to see opponent, cut through your defense like a knife through butter and score an uncontested layup; or foul 50 feet away from the basket and allow your opponent to make free-throws.


I said earlier in the year, the problem with the Sparks is the lack of footspeed in the backcourt. Coach Cooper wants to push the ball, but they don't have the speedy guards to be able to play that way. Unless that changes, against quicker teams, they will instead need to rely more on a half-court game and use their superior size advantage in Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie.

For a brand new video on press-break techniques, check out Blaine Taylor's DVD on Scoring Against Pressure Defense. Coach Taylor is the head coach at Old Dominion, one of the teams that I loved to watch last season. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.