Well, the new blog format is up. Hope you all like it. I've been working hard the past couple of weeks on it to make it look just right. I also want to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors Better Basketball and CREZ Software for their continued support.

It was the very hyped matchup between the Celtics and the Hawks tonight. The rejuvenated Hawks came in winning the last 2 games and brought a "swagger" as Kenny Smith calls it into game 5. Basically, what happened tonight was the Celtics shot lights out and the Hawks could never catch up. Sharp-shooting guard Ray Allen led the way with 5-of-8 from behind the arc. Watch these plays here that didn't start out designed for Ray but because Ray is so good at getting to the open spot, his teammates can find him,

It's all about line of sight. I've known some guys that were great perimeter shooters, but they could never get good shots off in games. Not only is it important to be able to shoot, but the ability to get open and within what we call, line of sight, between the ball and your hands. A lot of those guys that are great shooters but hardly score in games are usually stationary and you see them waving their hands saying they're open. But the passer can't get the ball to that person because there is no line of sight. Usually what happens then is they try to skip it, but because of the extended time it takes for the ball to reach the weak-side, the defense has recovered.

Watch here as Ray drags the 3-point arc to get within that line of sight. Also notice that since the defense is in a 2-3 matchup zone, which makes it easy for Ray to drag and drift away because the defense is reacting to the ball and not the man,

It all sounds like common sense, but it takes a lot of playing experience to know these little things like moving into a line of sight. Most players that just play by themselves or 1v1 don't pick up on the subtleties of team basketball, that's why I do feel it's important to get as much team game experience as possible such as playing year round if possible.


I'm a huge fan of the fundamentals of shooting. Yesterday I posted about Billups and his hot-shooting and today with Ray Allen. As a coach, I don't think there's ever such a thing as too much shooting practice, the more the better. Everything is easier when you have guys that can make shots. Show me a great team, and I'll show you 1 or more great shooters. It really is the great talent equalizer, because all it takes is constant practice. As a player, you don't have to be ultra-athletic, have god-given talent, or even brains, just hours and hours of reps.

Look for a shooting video? A newer shooting video you might want to consider is Steve Smith's DVD on team shooting. Coach Smith is the head coach of Oak Hill Academy, the prep school powerhouse featuring famous alum such as Jerry Stackhouse and Carmelo Anthony. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

It is pretty late tonight and I'll admit that I'm a little weary and disappointed now that the Phoenix Suns have been officially eliminated so I'm not really up for much analysis tonight. I've followed Steve Nash and watched him play for most of my life and it is difficult to watch another year go by, another opportunity gone by the wayside. I still have hope, but time is not on Steve's side.

I recorded the Pistons game earlier in the day and took a few clips of some early offense ball-screens between Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups which Billups used to shoot several uncontested shots,

Now, conventional wisdom has it that quick shots are a bad thing. I generally agree with that assertion, except that the most open shots usually are off the fast break or early offense. From looking at the clip, you can see that Andre Miller does not even get a hand up to challenge the shot, all 4 times,

I think it's still debatable whether an early offense quick long shot like the ones Billups was taking is good strategy. Obviously since Billups was making them, it was good tonight. But I think as a coach, you really have to be careful with it, if you've run it a couple of times and the shots aren't going in, I think switching back to running through several iterations of the offense by moving the ball side to side is still the best way to get a good variety of shots.

These sequences also have me thinking about a discussion between some coaches at the Coaches Forum about defensive stance and defending ball screens. My take away here is that communication is critical in defending ball-screens. Between Miller and Dalembert, you can see there is very little communication, hence Billups can free himself easily for the open shot.


The Pistons are obviously the more talented team. The problem that they haven't yet learned is that they can't turn it on and off, they have to play this way every single game. There is a saying that I like to tell my players, "Every game you play is the most important game of your life." (cliche but it's true).

Looking for some ideas for shooting drills to use in practice, take a look at Jay Wright's DVD on his 28 Competitive Shooting Drills. Coach Wright is currently the head coach at Villanova. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

The Celtics were about 12 minutes away from putting a chock-hold on their first round series against the Hawks. Instead, they had a defensive meltdown allowing the Hawks' Joe Johnson to go off for 20 points in the 4th quarter and even up the series at 2-2.

I do want to give credit to the Hawks first and foremost. I took some heat earlier this month for an article I wrote about how I felt that the Hawks were a solid playoff team. This Hawks team is the most athletically deep team in the NBA. What they lack in experience and shooting, they more than make up in freakish athleticism. And as I wrote, I do like the way Mike Woodson designs simple sets to let his players use their athleticism to beat opponents.

OK, now back to the Celtics. What happened to their 10 point lead heading into the last quarter?? The failure of the players and coaches to make the necessary defensive adjustments. In fact, they were double-teaming the wrong players and the leaving Joe Johnson and Josh Smith on 1v1. Take a look at 3 sequences from the 4th quarter,

Who Not to Double-team:

So, in this first clip, Al Horford of the Hawks gets the ball in the low block. Normally I favor doubling the post, because it's the most dangerous offensive position on the floor. But every situation is unique, and as a coach you need to adjust your defensive gameplan based on circumstances happening within the game. Al Horford had scored just 4 points up to that point and just 1 FG. Johnson already made 7 shots. To me, double teaming Horford and leaving Johnson open on the perimeter was not a wise decision,

In this next clip, about a third way through the quarter, they double Josh Childress on the low block. In fact, it's a double from the weak side which is even more deliberate. Like Horford, Childress only had 4 points in the game. Childress passes out of the double to Johnson who has dragged the arc, and drives it into the lane after catching the pass and hits a pull-up jumper,

Finally, with less than 5 minutes to go and now 2 points behind the Hawks, the Celtics decide to let Paul Pierce guard Johnson 1v1, the result was not pretty for the Celtics,

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to criticize by taking clips and pointing out mistakes. But it is from these mistakes that we learn. If the Celtics are to make a deep playoff run, they will need to make the necessary adjustments. I think I know what Doc Rivers was thinking, this young guy is gonna cool off eventually, he can't keep it up, we'll just wait it out. The problem is though, the double-teams on Horford and Childress were unnecessary and forced the defense into tough rotations.


I think most people are still assuming the Celtics go on to win, Kenny, Magic and CWebb all thought so on TNT. If they do, I think they will find the Magic a tough team to guard, and Lebron and the Cavs even tougher.

As for the upstart Hawks. If they manage to win this series, it would be a great thing for the city. Atlanta has had a bad rap with their sports teams lately and the Hawks have usually suffered the worst of it.

Free throws got you singing the blues? Take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. Coach Palubinskas has worked with professionals such as Lisa Leslie, Shaquille O'Neal and recently Lauren Jackson. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

The last NBA playoff series that I haven't written about so far is the chippy affair between the Wizards and the Cavs. It's been a very physical series, mostly by the Wizards directed at one, Lebron James of the Cavs.

I wrote before the playoffs started hypothesizing on how to defend against Lebron. I suggested a packline defense making sure Lebron didn't get anything easy going to rim, and closing out the shooters. The first 2 games, the Wizards were mostly straight M2M. In games 3 + 4, it's interesting because the Wizards switched defenses. On the ball screens for Lebron, the Wizards essentially went to a triangle and 2 with the 2 defenders defending Lebron. In many ways, it was similar to what the Lakers did against Melo last night.

Credit to coach Mike Brown of the Cavs to adjust to the defense by having Lebron draw the double and/or driving into the lane, then back-pick for the corner 3-pointer. I was surprised how many times they ran basically the same exact play over and over in the 2nd half and Boobie Gibson + Delonte West hit shot after shot from the corner. I captured a bunch of clips (though I missed the game winner), here they are,

To be honest, I thought the Wizards defended as good as they possibly could've defended, and they only lost the game by 3. Basically, the Wizards lost the game because their guards couldn't physically closeout quick enough (talent problem, not tactical) and the Cavs guards just went unconscious from behind the arc.

Lebron ISO to Backpick Corner 3-pointer:

This first sequence was against the triangle and 2 "tilt" by the Wiz against Lebron and the ball-screen by Z. Notice Ben Wallace, O4, setting a back-pick for the corner 3-pointer. The defender still gets by Wallace, but it's enough to give Gibson and West time to get off a good look,

This was against the box and 1 or 1-2-2 zone type defense the Wizards used when there wasn't a ball-screen for Lebron. Lebron easily blows by DeShawn Stevenson to get right into the lane. The entire defense collapses and Lebron dumps off to Ben Wallace who touch passes to Gibson on the wing. Then Wallace goes to run interference on Antawn Jamison trying to closeout,


Assuming the Cavs beat the Wizards and move on, they will be a very tough opponent to beat. When West and Gibson are hitting their 3-pointers, they're almost unstoppable. Lebron is going to score 20-30 points every game. The challenge is to somehow rotate and closeout those shooters. Boston has a couple of quicker and longer defenders in Rondo and Pierce. But I'm not 100% sure that even the Celtics can get it done.

For a real unique look at defensive scouting from a hall of fame coach, take a look at Pat Summitt's new DVD on creating a Defensive Scouting Report. Summitt believes that defending the dribble drive is the most difficult team concept in the game today. Discuss this and your other favorite topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Another solid day of NBA playoff action. Since I hadn't posted anything related to the West 1/8 matchup, I thought I would do so tonight as the Lakers and Nuggets went at each other today.

The Lakers have really breezed through the first 3 games. We all know that the Nuggets don't play defense consistently and that has proven to be the case so far in the playoffs as well. As long as the Lakers could limit the Nuggets dribble-drive offense, and Carmelo isolations, they would win easily. Against those Carmelo isolations, they run what Mike (the Czar) Fratello calls "a defensive overload", take a look,

Tilting the Defense:

I'll be honest, before tonight, I didn't know what defensive overload (or tilting according to the Czar) meant. I am familiar with offensive overload, especially against zone defenses, but the concept of overloading on defense is somewhat unfamiliar to me. But after I thought about it some more, it's really just a combo or junk style of defense.

From their basic M2M, you'll see Lamar Odom leave his man to the empty ball-side low block to prevent Melo from driving 1v1,

After the rest of the defenders have rotated to cover the rest of the players in basically a 3-man zone, it looks like this,

The more I thought about it, this idea of tilting really is like a triangle and 2 defense with 2 defenders guarding the ball. So, instead of guarding the 2 best players, you take 2 defenders to guard the other team's best player, 1 on the ball, and 1 in primary help-side, the other 3 players are in a triangle zone,

Another major difference here between a traditional triangle and 2 as well is that they don't move into formation until the pass has been made and the 1v1 ISO has been established. So, the Lakers start in M2M, and "tilt" the defense once the ISO has been set.

This defensive formation is not without it's flaws. As you can see from the stills above, there are some wide open guys on the weak side. Also, playing Iverson soft you'd think would normally be suicide. But on this night anyways, the Nuggets couldn't hit anything if they're life depended on it and everytime they tried driving, there were defenders everywhere.


Like many pundits have commented, I've really been surprised at the lack of urgency in both the players and coaches of the Nuggets. We know they play lazy defense, some or most of the time. But they play as if there's nothing in it for them. I don't know everything behind the scenes, but coach George Karl's mosh pit routine before game 1, though seemingly harmless, didn't help keep the players focused in my opinion. After all, if I was a player and saw that, I would think that it's OK to mess around because Coach is doing it. And now they're down 3-0 and most likely "goin' fishin'" as Kenny the Jet would say.

I don't think there's any video out there teaching this overload concept (unless the Czar or Phil Jackson are working on one), but if you're interested in the junk stuff, you might want to look at Homer Drew's DVD on the Box and 1 defense. As always, don't forget to check out the the X's and O's of Basketball forum to get all your hoops fill.

The Mavs looked to be on the ropes after dropping the first 2 games in NOLA. I watched both of those games, and while Game 2 was a disaster for the Mavs, they actually played pretty good in the first half of Game 1 before Chris Paul decided to own it.

One of the biggest adjustments that I saw from games 1 and 2 to game 3 back in Dallas was how the Mavs decided to play the PNR with Paul and Chandler. In games 1 and 2, the Mavs tried to trap Paul. The problem with that strategy is that nobody on the Mavs has the footspeed to successfully trap Paul and either he split the double or he found Chandler for multiple alley-oops.

Instead, for game 3, Coach Avery Johnson made the adjustment to fight thru the picks, and stay at home on Chandler protecting the basket. Then they would rotate from the weak side to prevent penetration and only allow the mid-range shot. Here are 2 sequences from the 3rd quarter that illustrate this nicely,

Trapping the Ball-screen:

Normally, I like trapping the ball screen. I've written about a half-dozen or so posts just on that topic alone. I feel that it puts a lot of pressure on the offense that likes to use ball-screens a lot and forces them to scramble to run something else.

The exception is if you're playing a dynamic point-guard. Someone who has the quicks to split and dribble out of the double or make the pass out of the double with poise. That player is Chris Paul.

This is from game 2. You can see the Mavs trying to contain Chris with Dirk hedging. In this case, Paul split right through the gap and scored an easy layup,

Fight Thru and Stay at Home:

The adjustment in game 3 was to fight thru the screen and for Dirk to stay at home. No point to play up as Chandler won't pick and pop, he's not good enough of a shooter. We've seen David West go pick and pop, but not in this series. Dirk stays at home to protect the basket against a rolling Chandler and Terry chases Paul around the pick. The only shot Paul has is a 5-footer which he misses,

I like the second clip from the video. It's the Mavs good defense leading to good offense. Dirk is so deadly in the fast break running his lane on the wing and stepping into a 3-pointer.


The playoffs are so great to watch. From a coaches perspective I couldn't help but watch the pressure start to show on the coaches faces. Many say that if the Mavs lose this series, Avery Johnson is on the way out. The Suns are down 3-0 and D'Antoni was practically booed off the court tonight, hard to imagine that someone won't take the fall for a first-round exit. Flip Saunders is starting to pace a lot more quickly than we're used to seeing, Joe Dumars isn't afraid to make a move especially now that Larry Brown is available. It's not always fair, but the reality we live in is a fickle world where fans/managers/owners only see short-term results.

To learn more about the PNR and how to defend, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll and how to defend it. Van Gundy is a master of the PNR having coached some of the best guard-forward tandems in the NBA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.

It's amazing what aggressive ball pressure can do. You put a ton of pressure on the ball, deny the passing lanes, and force the offense to really execute. The Raptors did just that tonight and the result was a resounding home playoff win against the Magic and now look poised to even up the series.

I've always felt that this series would come down to whether or not the Raptors could toughen up on defense. Can they stop penetration? Can they close out the shooters? Will the take charges? The Raptors can score with the best of them but if they could somehow figure out how to defend both individually and as a team, they could really make some noise. So far though, they've been wildly inconsistent, mostly bad in the first quarter letting Nelson and Arroyo do whatever they want with the ball and relying too much on help defense giving way to so many open 3-pointers. But finally, in game 3, we see the Raptors put together a complete game defensive effort and it paid off. Here are a few sequences from the first half that allowed the Raptors to build a 20 point lead going into the locker room,

Ball Pressure:

To me, it starts and ends with ball pressure. Part of the reason why I don't like straight zones is because it's soft and you let the offense off the hook IMO. I always like making the offense work, even in the backcourt making the point-guard zig-zag down the floor. Not only does this shave some secs off the shot clock, but you allow your other defenders to get into position in the half-court. Here, Jose Calderon works Arroyo full court,

Double and Rotate:

One of the things that the Raptors did a lot better tonight was their double teams on Dwight Howard and rotating to cover the other defenders. In this clip you'll see that the double team goes while the ball is in the air. They don't wait for the catch or the dribble because Howard is too good a passer. In fact, Howard is still able to touch pass it to the top of the key and reverse the ball, fortunately, the Raptors are able to rotate and get into the passing lanes and force the turnover,

Deny the Post-entry Pass:

First, you'll notice that TJ Ford is basically covering Howard from the outset. Once the ball is reversed to the top of the key. Andrea Bargnani does a solid job getting his hand out to deny the pass and poke it away. Howard should've done a better job to jump to the ball, but with Ford in front of him, it was difficult to do that,

The last clip that I didn't screencap was the charge taken by Jamario Moon. That was the 1 personnel change that head coach Sam Mitchell made for this game starting Moon over Nesterovic. For the most part I agree with it, the Raptors need more speed to double and rotate and Moon gives them that. Plus you can see that he's willing to take charges more readily which is another big reason why he should be starting.


The challenge for the Raptors is whether they can play this kind of scrambling type of defense with aggressive ball pressure for the entire game. You can't afford to fall asleep sometimes, you must play this way all game. Nobody said good defense would be easy, but in order to stop good offensive teams (which almost all the playoff teams are), it is a prerequisite.

If you've ever watched the Southern Illinois Sakulis play, you'll know that they play hard-nosed defense. If you like hard-nosed defense (who doesn't), then you'll want to check out Chris Lowery's new DVD on transition defense and half-court defense. Talk hoops strategy at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Wasn't as exciting a day in NBA playoff basketball since the playoffs began, but I took the opportunity to breakdown a little of what the Celtics do. Though they are mainly a half-court offensive team, they do run an Early Offense most of the time with Kevin Garnett on the early post-up.

From a coaching perspective, if you can get your bigs to postup early and gain position, it makes it so much easier to score before the defense sets up. As a center/forward, it's tough having to go up against double-teams all the time, so any opportunity you can to get up the floor post-up, turn and shoot is a good one. In this case, KG posts up, then finds Rondo who cuts underneath the defense for the easy layup. The Czar, Mike Fratello, breakin' it down for us from the TNT crew,

Early Offense Postup:

I like how the Celtics are perfectly spread here. Now, I say early offense, but really this was probably off a rebound or steal. The real early offense would be off of a made basket, but in any case, the wings run their lanes, KG is already ahead of the play going straight down the middle. In the clip, watch him work his defender for position in the key. The first pass goes to the wing from Rondo,

After the wing pass, Rondo cuts to the opposite low block from KG. KG clears the key and posts up. He gets the pass then the quick touch pass to Rondo who goes in for an easy layup,

Another great player that is great when he occasionally gets up and down the floor is Shaq doing the early post up. I went through yesterday's game and found this nice shot of Shaq running ahead of the defense, gets fronted, but the lob comes before the double team and he scores easily,

Shaq is almost unstoppable when he's out running and posting up early. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of conditioning to go back and forth like that and I don't think Shaq is able to do that consistently anymore.


If you watch the Celtics, KG is great at gaining position early in the shot clock. He probably scores half of his points off the early post-up. When it's not there, he'll kick it back out and they'll run another quick hitter from dribble drive or stagger screens for Ray Allen. The key with the Celtics though is their tough M2M defense. They are a great, and I mean great, transition defense team and to a man they each take pride in defending their guy. Just a real old school defensive philosophy.

All kinds of speculation that Tom Izzo might be headed to the Bulls. In any case, there is a new video out that has the numbered fast break used at Michigan State, check out Tom Izzo's new DVD on the Numbered Fast Break. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It was another thrilling game, just like game one was between the Spurs and the Suns, but I left the game feeling that once again, that the Suns made some subtle, but critical mistakes down the stretch that cost them a chance to tie the game and quite possibly could've cost them the series.

As a coach, one of the things I've come to believe in as an absolute is that when the game is on the line, you want your best players taking the big shots down the stretch, at the very least, you want to run the play through your clutch players. If you're the Phoenix Suns, down by 6, 2 minutes to go, game on the line, who do you go to? You would think Steve Nash, or Amare Stoudamire, or maybe even Shaq. But instead, Mike D'Antoni went with Boris Diaw ISO 1v1. In fact, they would go to Diaw ISO 1v1 at least 3 times under 7 min in the 4th quarter, and each time they ended up with 0 points,

Here are the last scores by Phoenix,
7:07 Steve Nash makes 24-foot three point jumper (Raja Bell assists)
4:26 Steve Nash makes layup
4:13 Raja Bell makes free throw 1 of 2
4:13 Raja Bell makes free throw 2 of 2
3:43 Amare Stoudemire makes tip shot
3:15 Steve Nash makes free throw 1 of 2
3:15 Steve Nash makes free throw 2 of 2
2:44 Steve Nash makes 11-foot two point shot
1:31 Steve Nash makes 9-foot two point shot
0:14 Amare Stoudemire makes 25-foot three point jumper (Steve Nash assists)

It is in that same 7 minute period above where those 3 fateful Boris Diaw possessions exist. Doug Collins on the TNT broadcast kept saying it was a mis-match, Diaw on Ginobili and later Diaw on Finley. I like Collins, but I must respectfully disagree. Steve Nash makes 5 of the last 8 scores with a tough Bruce Bowen bumping him all quarter and you go to Diaw with the series on the line??

In the playoffs, in crunch time, I think playing the mis-match as opposed to having the ball in your best players hands is just not very cerebral. This is 2 games in a row now where Nash was clearly the best offensive player for the Suns down the stretch, yet they went with Diaw. Unsurprisingly, the result was the same.


After scoring 63 points in the first half, the Suns managed just 11 in the 3rd quarter. Why the difference? The Spurs adjusted to the Suns devastating PNR by overplaying Nash and rotating to cover Stoudamire rolling to the basket. They allowed Nash to get into the paint where they know he likes to pass it. The Suns adjusted to this by having Barbosa and Diaw take more shots. In hindsight, Nash should've taken a few more shots in that 3rd quarter, where he took only 2 (of which he made 1).

I watched the TNT broadcast post-game and I don't agree with Charles that the Suns played Denver-like defense. I thought overall the Suns did a decent job defensively, considering who they had to defend (Duncan-Parker-Ginobili). The real problem was the offense, and specifically as I showed here, who was taking the shots. If you're relying on Diaw to score 20 points, you're in trouble. If Barbosa is the guy you're hoping will break out and score 20 (instead of going 0-for-7), together with Diaw, you're in big trouble.

With the off-season in full-swing for most of you high school coaches, take a look at Billy Donovan's DVD on Offensive Skill Development. Coach Donovan is the head coach of 2-time National Champion Florida Gators. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.

As the old adage goes, defense wins games. And the Jazz showed why they win games, by playing tough physical defense. Against the Rockets they bodied up and wore them down by grinding out 2 hard earned wins on the road.

All of Jerry Sloan's Jazz teams have always prided themselves in tough defense and rebounding (Karl Malone). I love the way they really get after the ball on defense, they attack the ball-handler and they hard show on all ball-screens. They really make you work the entire shot clock and force you to take contested shots. Here are a few sequences, the first one is Kyle Korver stopping Bobby Jackson's drive with a nice block, then a couple of sequences with Matt Harpring and Andrei Kirilenko chasing Tracy McGrady around,

First off, what a game for Andrei Kirilenko. His stat line won't wow you (3pts, 8rebs, 1block), but he made many of the big/small plays that mean so much in the playoffs. In the playoffs, its all about possessions; saving possessions, gaining more possessions, and not losing possessions. Kirilenko was a net plus in generating possessions. He helped defend McGrady for a large part of the game, and came up with many big rebounds, none bigger than the one at the end of the game and kick out to Korver for essentially the game clincher. He's the kind of guy that is the glue to the team, everyone else gets the praise, but Kirilenko is the one that makes it work.

Hedging The Ball-screen:

Against McGrady, the Jazz hedged all ball screens, slowing him down enough for the primary defender to recover. The goal being to wear him out. You can see McGrady trying to make a move off the ball-screen, only to see a double, dribble back out, then another ball-screen with a hedge, then finally a turnover. This is what it looks like when Carlos Boozer comes out for the hedge. Here, McGrady hasn't even taken a dribble yet, but he has to take his non-pivot foot 1 step back and protect the ball,

After a different hedge here, McGrady tries to pass out of the double to the open screener who rolls to the basket, except the lanky Kirilenko is able to get his hand on the ball and create the turnover,


Too bad I didn't record the very end of this game. The Jazz really turned up the physicality on defense. Now, there's a fine line between dirty (like what Haywood did to Lebron tonight) and physical. When I played basketball, it was always rough, you only called fouls if you drew blood. It's different now, where every little touch is a foul, but I like playoff style basketball, you have to win the game on your own and not rely on the refs to bail you out. Tonight, it was my kind of basketball, physical, no easy buckets, fight for everything.

For a new M2M defense video, check out Mark Fox's DVD on Building a M2M Defense. I like his idea of emphasizing taking charges. Already in this playoffs we've seen the impact that charges have had on the result of games (Kurt Thomas for the Spurs). Talk hoops strategy at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Another fantastic day in NBA playoff action, not as good as day one, but still a solid 2nd opening. It's interesting to see that despite being the playoffs, with so much on the line, teams pretty much stay the same from regular season and even from last season. I'm specifically talking about the Pistons here. The problem that the Pistons have is themselves, they don't take things seriously and they have a sense of arrogance, that they are better than everyone and they can beat teams without even trying.

Of course, that couldn't be further from the truth, especially in this year's NBA where the playoff teams area all so even. Some people pointed to the fact that several Piston players were hanging out at the scorer's table in-game as if it was a preseason game, joking around with former teammates eating nachos and pop in the front row. Well, that certainly didn't help.

But to me, the biggest tactical mistake was from head coach Flip Saunders. I know he was trying to even out the minutes to rest his starters for what he hopes to be a long playoff run, but basketball is all about timing and momentum. The Sixers were making a major run in the late part of the 3rd quarter and early part of the 4th quarter against Detroit's subs and would eventually tie the game. Detroit's starters came back into the game cold around the 8:00 min mark and couldn't get into a rhythm the rest of the way, Needless to say the Sixers wound up winning the game after trailing for 3.5 quarters. Here are 2 critical offensive (defensive for Sixers) sequence that in my opinion were the gamebreakers,

By no means do I want to diminish the excellent defensive effort of the Sixers. I think Mo Cheeks did a fabulous job getting his guys ready for a comeback in the 2nd half. Against the Pistons subs, I love the aggressive all-out denying defense, you could tell that the Pistons were totally confused,

But I'm convinced that had the Pistons starters been in the game in the early part of the 4th quarter, the Pistons walk away from game one with a win. It just goes to underscore the critical importance of player substitutions. For most of the first part of the 4th quarter, the Pistons went with Lindsay Hunter, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell and Theo Ratliff. Prince was the only offensive threat and he was rushed on most of his shots.

Well, it's always tough because you want to give your starters a blow heading into the final few minutes of the game. But you can't take them all out at the same time (minus Prince). I would've gone with a lineup like Hunter, Prince, Hamilton, Wallace and Maxiell. Then maybe bring in McDyess for Maxiell, Billups for Hunter and Stuckey for Hamilton halfway. Last 4 minutes would be all 5 starters subbing out Prince and Wallace a couple of short times in between timeouts and free-throws to rest. Besides, because of so many TV timeouts they get in the NBA, that is why you see a lot of players averaging 40+ minutes per game all season. I've always believed in the philosophy that you shorten your bench to about 8 in the playoffs (excluding blowouts).

In a sense, it is highly ironic that Flip Saunders who has been highly criticized in the past for relying too heavily on his starters, is now being criticized for playing the subs. But more than anything it's about the timing. You have to know when to put in the starters, when to take them out, when to call timeouts to change momentum, switch defenses, etc... It's complicated, I know, but that's what coaches are being paid to do, make those big important decisions that change outcomes of games.

For more great info on developing a winning team concept, check out Hubie Brown's DVD on his Secrets to Winning Basketball. It was great to hear Hubie on TV today and I look forward to more of his broadcasts the rest of the playoffs. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

What a first day in the NBA playoffs. Lebron took over late, Chris Paul came alive for the come from behind win and the Jazz got a huge road win. But the focus of this post will be the epic battle between the Spurs and Suns.

First off, just want to say that it was a truly classic game, both teams left it all out there which is all we can ask from our players as coaches. There are many things that went right and wrong for both teams, but in my opinion, it was the little things that the Spurs did and the Suns didn't that made the difference.

The one thing that stuck out in my mind in the 2nd OT was how easy it was for Ginobili to score. Everyone knows the scouting report on Ginobili is that he likes going left. If that is the case, you would've expected Suns defenders, Raja Bell in particular, to play Ginobili by shading him right. Here are the last 3 offensive possessions for the Spurs in the 2OT,

In the first sequence, Bell actually plays it pretty good. You can see that he is forcing Ginobili to his right. Ginobili goes right and drives into the lane. It is Shaq who is avoiding his 6th foul that allows Ginobili to get a floater over top of him,

But these next 2 sequences show Bell in a flat parallel stance allowing Ginobili to choose his favorite side, the left. And consequently scores the 2 final scores, including the game winner,

In this last one, the game winner, you can actually see Steve Nash near the bottom come up to help. Clearly Steve was expecting Bell to force him right where Nash would be there to make Ginobili shoot a tough jumper or pick up his dribble,


Like I said, there were many mistakes, but they went both ways. The Spurs had some turnovers, let through some big offensive rebounds like the big one to Shaq in 2OT, but the Suns had all the advantages leading twice by 3, one in regulation, one in 1OT. Those are situations that you should win, and there is no excuse for not closing the deal. If there's any solace for Suns fans, they are a resilient bunch, if they win game 2, they'll have the upper hand going back to Phoenix.

Now that most of you coaches are in the off-season, a skill development video you might want to take a look at is Kevin Sutton's DVD on 10 Drills For Player Evaluation. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It's spring and so the annual coaching carousel makes its inevitable rounds throughout all the levels, professional, college and high school. The ones that had long tenures, usually are predictable (retirement, leave for a better job, etc... But I've always wondered about the interim head coach. Why would anyone take an interim head coaching position only to get dumped at the end of the season? There are a few rare exceptions where the interim position leads to a permanent one but by and large, interim head coaches most likely end up dumped at the end of the year. So why would anyone even entertain that possibility?

I was reading the press release yesterday of Jim Boylan's firing from the Bulls and while it seems that he was the fall guy, the lame duck for a disasterous season, he seemed reserved to his fate almost from the moment he took the job,

“I was brought in here in the middle of the season,” Boylan said a day before the Bulls ended his tenure. “It’s kind of a tough situation. A lot of things happened.”

With so much turmoil already at the time, things got notably worse. There was the Joakim Noah verbal blowup at assistant coach Ron Adams in practice one day in January. Then Andres Nocioni blew a gasket at Boylan after being taken out of a game in the second quarter against Indiana in March sending Andres to the locker room. Or Chris Duhon skipping practices to watch Duke games. After all of that, Jim Boylan was reflective in describing his time as head coach,
Boylan described his experience as “Fun. It was full of all kinds of experiences—some good, some not so good,” he said. “Sitting in the head coach’s seat was comfortable and enjoyable. I loved the challenge.”

I think as coaches, ultimately, we yearn for the chance to be the head coach, no matter how bad the situation is. I don't think anyone goes into coaching hoping to be an assistant forever. We all want to remember what it feels like to call all the shots again. Once you become a head coach, it's all you ever think about getting back to. It's why coaches take the risk, to put themselves out there. You think that for Boylan, the safe thing to do was to probably stay the assistant, bide his time and maybe in the summer he could land a good NBA head coaching job. Instead, he opted for the interim route full of potential pitfalls. Boylan won't likely be a head coach in the NBA anytime soon after this season, but I think he wouldn't change a thing even if he had the chance.

I think back to earlier this season when Eddie Sutton took over as interim coach at San Francisco and Dan Dakich in Indiana. Both were potentially bad situations and turned out to be bad situations. Now, people say Sutton took the job just to get his 800th win. That's possible, but I think what's more probable is that Sutton and Dakich just wanted to be the head coach again. To call the shots, run practices, be the man. Both men knew that there was probably nothing beyond March, yet they took the plunge anyways.

Coaching is a funny thing. It's like once you're in it, you're in for life. I don't know how many times I've talked to coaches in March and April and they say, "This is it, I've had it, I'm never coaching again." Only to see them back on the bench in October, doing what they always do, coaching basketball.

A couple of days in between games before the NBA playoffs, a great opportunity to show some emerging talent. For you hoop crazed fans out there like me, you probably caught the NIKE Hoop Summit on FOX this past Saturday. I like it better than the McDonald's All-American game which is more NBA All-star game than team competition.

The NIKE Hoop Summit pits the USA Jr National team against a squad of same aged (U19) international players. I think the competition is a little unfair against Team World, because of the additional communication barriers and lack of preparation time as compared to Team USA. But some of those factors are unavoidable.

Anyways, Team USA basically went with a dribble drive motion offense in the half-court. Team World switched defenses between M2M and zone which confused Team USA a little but they stuck with the dribble drive throughout. Here are a few sequences from a tight first half,

I'll say that it wasn't strictly the dribble drive, more like a spread drive and kick (ala Duke this year) as Team USA did use the ball-screen occasionally. Although Team USA did not shoot the ball well and did rely on penetration, offensive rebounds to score. Another reason why it isn't technically a motion offense, is because with international rules of a 24 second shot clock, you essentially have 1 maybe 2 drive-kick series. So it's basically dribble drive early offense.

I took this screenshot just to show the simplicity of drive and kick. This is from the 2nd clip with Team World playing M2M,

Team USA #6 uses a great stutter step to freeze the defender up top then attacks the elbow forcing the corner defender to step in to help. #6 kicks it out to #9 who is so wide open. #9, just drives into the open spot and shoots a floater and banks it.


This game was almost tied at halftime, pretty amazing when you consider that Team USA has traditionally dominated Team World. In the 2nd half, Team USA began pressing and aggressively overplaying and Team World didn't adjust and thus the 20 point differential, 98-78. Another big factor was the 8-sec halfcourt rule, it allowed Team USA to really pressure in the backcourt and force some bad passes by Team World.

I like the dribble drive offense in the halfcourt for Team USA though, it was very suitable. They're more athletic and 1v1 on the perimeter, every Team USA player can penetrate.

For a relatively new video on perimeter play improvement, take a look at Jason Shay's DVD on 33 Perimeter drills. Coach Shay's is an assistant with the University of Tennessee men's team. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Last game of the regular season. It's always a funny one. The anticipation is building; the playoffs are so different from the regular season, every possession, every shot, suddenly becomes of vital importance, the experience is so all-encompassing. But for half the teams, the season is over, and mostly there is great disappointment. Some coaches will be fired, players will get evaluated, scouts will be busy filling up their reports for the upcoming draft. Yes, it is a funny time.

For the last game of the regular season, I chose to watch the Houston Rockets. I caught a little of the Pistons/Cavs game but quickly switched out as both were playing their benches. The Rockets have fallen from grace since their record 20+ winning streak earlier in the year but they're in the playoffs. I like many criticized Rick Adelman at the beginning of the season for the perceived inability to get the Rockets to improve offensively. 6 months later, and Rick Adelman's Princeton Offense has really become a staple of the team and it's looking pretty darn good to me (albeit against a lethargic Clippers team). I caught a few sequences from the first half,

Princeton High Offense:

The Princeton Offense can be run out of many different sets. 5-out, 4-out 1-in, low post, high post. The Rockets run their Princeton sets out of a double high-post set, with both O4 and O5 occupying the high-post spots. In this sequence, the pass goes to the high post and O1 then goes to set a screen for T-Mac. The opposite high-post goes to set another screen for T-Mac. T-Mac can either cut to the basket or use the stagger to get the ball up top,

Not shown above, but once T-Mac gets the pass, Mutumbo rolls to the basket and T-Mac finds him for the easy layup.

This is almost a similar set out of the Princeton, except it's both forwards going to set a stagger screen for Battier who comes off the screens and sets and shoots a perfect jumper,


The Rockets still run the PNR, like most NBA teams, but it's probably about 70% Princeton and 30% PNR now (especially more so now that Yao Ming is out). They space the floor really well and get really good quality shots out of it. For a guy like Mutumbo, I think the Princeton fits well with where he is in his career. Mutumbo certainly cannot go 1v1 down low like he used to. The screening/motion options really gives a guy like Mutumbo and Scola a chance to get the ball going to the basket and not have to rely on 1v1. It's really going to be great to watch these 2 teams (Houston and Utah) go at each other for the 2nd straight year.

There are plenty of videos teaching various Princeton concepts like the backdoor cut, etc.. But surprisingly there aren't that many specific videos on implementing the Princeton system. If you are looking for one however, you should check out Joe Scott's DVD building the Princeton Offense. Coach Scott is the current head coach at Denver and used to be the head coach at Air Force and Princeton, both 5-out teams. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.

I watched a couple of games on the schedule tonight as we inch closer to the playoffs. I started off with the game between the Magic and the Hawks. A meaningless game really, but nonetheless I wanted to watch what the Magic do on offense and defense as they get ready to play the Raptors in the first round (the Magic would win this game easily).

Offensively, the Magic are formidable. No question, they can beat you in so many ways. Defensively, based on this one game, it certainly appears that the Magic rely a lot on a matchup zone with Howard in the middle. Here are a few frames from the first half,

Matchup Zone:

At times it doesn't really look like a matchup zone but resembles a switching M2M. But the lines between what is a matchup and a switching M2M are blurry anyways. With any matchup zone, there are specific rules based on game strategy and overall defensive philosophy that cover what to do on screens, cutters and double-teams. The commonality among them all is the fact that the defenders must communicate and "bump the defender". Take the 2nd clip for example,

Howard doubles from the middle. His man gets the pass causing the Evans up top to rotate. Howard moves back down to cover the player on the low block and bumps Lewis to the far wing where a bad pass is thrown to. The key is that you don't move until you are "bumped". If Lewis moves before Howard bumps him, then there is a hole whereby the player on the low block is left unguarded for that time period.


The Magic are one of the best defensive teams FG% wise. I think that Dwight Howard in the middle has a lot to do with that. They give up a slightly higher 3-point %, which I think fits the way the Raptors like to play. The biggest key to the matchup between the Magic and Raptors will be whether the Raptors can play consistent defense. If not, it will be an easy first round for the Magic.

For an interesting perspective on zone defenses from a M2M defensive-minded coach, take a look at Tubby Smith's DVD on Utilizing Zones. Coach Smith is currently the head coach at Minnesota. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

With all the talk about the Celtics and Pistons in the East, I wanted to get a glimpse of the Cavs as the playoffs draw near. I think they are flying a little under the radar despite being the defending Eastern Conference Champions. I think the changes they made before the trade deadline were decent, but not a major upgrade like the Lakers.

The game tonight was a big one for both the Cavs and the 76ers. It ended up being quite the controversial finish after officials gave the Cavs 2 free-throws after the end of the game by reviewing the tape. For the record, I'm against video review on foul calls, review the clock, review foot on the line. The reason being that where do you draw the line, if we start reviewing end of game fouls, what's to say we don't review end of quarter/half, shot clock, where does it end?

Anyways, back to the game. I think that NBA fans should watch Cavs games just to be reminded of how great Lebron James really is. The Cavs absolutely have a chance to go back to the NBA finals because of Lebron. His ability to make basketball plays (pass, rebound, shoot, drive, defend) is uncanny, not to mention his linebacker physique. Here are a couple of plays from the game (clips were taken by separate feeds so I apologize in advance for the fuziness) with LBJ showing his awesome passing ability,

After watching the game and specifically that second clip from the end of the game, what is the best way to defend against a player like LBJ who can score so effectively 1v1. The 76ers chose to double with defender from the baseline. The problem is that the double-team takes so long to develop having to cover so much distance and LBJ easily sees where it's coming from,

I like what the Cavs do, Devon Brown cuts to the paint after his man goes to double. This forces Samuel Dalembert to cover 2 players in the paint allowing LBJ to find Ilgauskas.

Is it imperative to double Lebron or can you defend him 1v1 and rely on help if he penetrates?? I don't like the double-team so far away from the basket because I think it leaves you so vulnerable with only 3 defenders, and 1 in the paint, so I'd prefer to stay with a 1v1 and live with the whatever weaknesses of my best defender on LBJ. I don't like the box and 1 or triangle and 2 because Gibson can hit the 3-pointer. I think that playing a packline but ensuring that your defenders closeout properly is the best method. It's not perfect, but I think it can help prevent LBJ from getting to the rim, while still allowing a chance at getting a hand up on open shooters,

For some defensive info from one of the greatest basketball minds there is, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on his Defensive Playbook for success. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

Another fantastic day full of important games in the NBA today with major playoff implications. The Lakers moved one step closer to clinching the top seed in the west, but the most intriguing game was between the Rockets and the Nuggets. The Rockets looked to try to stay with the Lakers for top spot while the Nuggets try to secure the 8th and final playoff spot.

The Nuggets win over the Rockets was really a great game. In my opinion, the Nuggets are a nightmare matchup for any team to face in the playoffs due to their active hands. Did you know that the Nuggets rank as the top team in the NBA for steals at just over 9.2 per game? They had 10 tonight and they were a major reason why the Nuggets won the game. Here are 3 sequences from the first half showing their active hands,

I've watched a few Nuggets games over the season and I was surprised that they didn't play much of their matchup zone at all today. I think the zone suits them really well because Carmelo Anthony ran it while at Syracuse where they won the National Championship.

In any case, not only do they have active hands getting into those passing lanes, they do a great job rotating as witnessed in that last sequence from the clip. In the NBA, defensive rotation is so critical. Not so much in high school or even college because at the lower levels, there are usually only a few bonafide shooters that you must closeout, in the NBA, everyone can shoot.

Defensive Rotations:

As I mentioned, doesn't matter what kind of defense you run, in the NBA, you must rotate. What happens is Iverson helps on the dribble penetration by McGrady off the PNR,

The help defense on the penetration causes a ripple effect where the rest of the Nuggets have to rotate to the ball as it gets reversed,

Eventually, they are able to recover fully 1v1 and block the Rockets shot leading to the fast break score. As you can tell, tough defense is a lot of hard work. That's why sometimes it's easy to get lazy, as the Nuggets tend to do on occasion.

Their ability to force turnovers is what creates so many easy offensive opportunities. The Nuggets are just like the Memphis Tigers of the NCAA, their defense is their best offense. When the Nuggets are getting steals, they're scoring a bunch of points. Good defense leading to great offense, I love it.


The win by the Nuggets all but seals the fate for the Warriors. Unfortunately for them, they will become the first 50-win team in NBA history to not make the playoffs (at least that's what I read). If the Nuggets play defense like this every game, I can see them beating all the top teams.

This video just hit the shelves. It's from one of the top defensive minds in division 1 basketball. Check out Chris Lowery's brand new DVD on transition and halfcourt defense. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Another big night in NBA action as teams fighting for playoff spots are down to their final hours. I wrote about the Pacers yesterday, and today I'm writing about the Hawks. The Hawks are fortunate in that they are 2 games ahead and have the luxury of self-determination.

No easy task tonight though, facing the vaunted Celtics. For 3 and 1/2 quarters, the Hawks hung with and were even ahead, but it fell apart late. Still, they played very well. I haven't watched many Hawks games but I think they are the most athletic team in the NBA. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford, are you kidding me? With so many long athletic forwards, no wonder Mike Woodson sticks with mostly PNRs and ISO sets, take a look,

I like what the Hawks do on offense. They keep things really simple. Why complicate things when you have that kind of athleticism. The Josh Smith dunk there was crazy, and what about Horford flying in there to snatch the rebound, wow. Schematically, the Hawks are very vanilla, they run the PNR and numbered ISO sets for a specific player.

Low Post 1v1:

Al Horford is a beast. I think the rookie of year will probably go to Durant, but Horford could end up the better pro. Huge upside there. In this play, the Hawks clear out, and enter the ball into the post from the high-wing,

Once down low, they space the floor and Horford makes his move. If the defense collapses, Horford can find any number of shooters on the perimeter,


I'm not normally a huge fan of ISO sets, but I think that in the case where the mismatch is sufficiently large, it is more than justified. The Hawks have incredible athleticism, probably more than they know what to do with, but their lack of consistent perimeter shooting will prevent them from making a run. But the future is bright indeed.

If you're looking for some more skill development stuff, take a look at Tom Crean's new DVD on Dynamic Skills which has some stuff on post skills and post-entry. Coach Crean of course is the new head coach for Indiana University. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

The last couple of playoff spots are still up in the air both in the west and in the east. I was watching closely the race for 8th between the Hawks and the Pacers. The Hawks were playing the Knicks so that was almost an automatic win. The Pacers however, were up against a solid 76ers team and for the Pacers, the game really was "a must win" as the cliche goes.

Anyways, I wrote about the Pacers pack line defense earlier in the year. What I saw from the Pacers tonight was a team that had really grasped the concepts of the pack including help-side defense and protecting the basket at all costs. Another important concept that was lacking earlier in the year, was the propensity to take charges which the Pacers are now doing. Watch a couple of sequences from the first half,

Help-side Defense:

When you play a pack line or even an on-the-line/up-the-line M2M defense, one of the most critical aspects is help-side. Now, what happens here is off the PNR, the Pacers run a soft show. This means that the help-side underneath must rotate to protect against rotation. That is exactly what happens here to prevent the dunk,

Taking the Charge:

When your all packed in like the way the Pacers play defense, you must step up to take the charge on teams that insist on dribble penetration. Otherwise they will score and/or pick up fouls on your defense. Jeff Foster anticipates the drives, steps down and takes the contact from Iguodola,

I've said before, I think the charge is the most under-rated play in basketball. What other basketball play stops the other team, result in a change of possession for you, and penalizes the opposing team with a personal foul?


The Hawks will probably end up with that 8th and final spot. Even if the Pacers make it in, I'm not convinced that they have the players to run this defense successfully against a great shooting team like Boston or Detroit. There's a lot of pressure on Larry Bird now to turn the Pacers around. Especially now that he's the main man, but that's the way he likes it, with everything on the line.

For a brand new video, check out Bob Huggins' DVD on M2M drills. Coach Huggins' Bearcats teams were always known for their incredible defensive intensity. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It was one of those crazy finishes that reminds us all why we all love this game so much. First a great 3-pointer by Deron Williams to tie the game with 5 seconds to go. Then the Mavs come right back down the court and Dirk Nowitzki hits the game winning 3-pointer with 1 second left.

As I coach, you just love these situations, as players, you thrive on them. First, it was just a great flex-downscreen play by Utah and a late switch that allowed Williams just enough separation to get a good shot off. Then, the Mavs, without timeouts, push the ball up the court to beat the defense, and find their best player on the wing for the open jumper. Unbelievable, watch for yourself,

I want to break down the inbounds 3-pointer by the Jazz first, then show the Mavs on the break.

Inbounds Flex 3-pointer:

I've always believed that the best plays that to get great 3-point shots are off of flex-downscreens. The play is simple and works as designed. What happens is that Devan George is supposed to switch from Boozer to Williams on the downscreen. He does this but he's late. That's the beauty of the flex, it just takes a lapse of 1 or 2 seconds to gain separation. Now, credit George for closing out fast, which forces Williams to take a tougher shot (and banks it),

Fast Break 3-pointer:

The inability of the Mavs to get back into transition defense was inexcusable. You can see Jazz coach Jerry Sloan in the background screaming to cover the wings. What really makes this work is Eddie Jones who pushes the ball and forces Korver to cover both himself and Dirk. When Korver commits to Jones, the pass goes to Dirk for the wing 3-pointer,

In hindsight, with 2 timeouts remaining, the Jazz could've called timeout when they tied the game with 5 seconds left to setup their defense. That might've made the difference, but then again 5 seconds is still plenty of time to score from the end line, also consider that the Mavs only had to score a 2-pointer for the win.


I flipped back and forth between the Warriors and Nuggets and Mavs and Jazz, both were incredible to watch. With the playoffs at stake, you can really feel the games meaning something now, the intensity turned up a notch. I read Kelly Dwyer's article about why the NBA is better than college. I'm one of those he writes about that prefers college, or even high school for that matter over the NBA. The reason is because you could make the case that the first 60 games of the NBA regular season are irrelevant, merely exhibition. It's not an elitist thing, it's just a simple fact that you don't see the effort in Nov to Feb as you see in Apr. In college, every game means so much more.

For a great new video from a truly great basketball mind, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on Playbook for Success. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and other basketball topics.

The Raptors are heading to the playoffs, but there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm from Toronto fans. This despite the Leafs being out of the NHL playoffs yet again. The Raptors in my opinion have one of the best offenses in the league, they rank in the top 10 in almost all the major offensive categories, 7th in FG%, 2nd in 3pt FG%, 1st in FT%, 5th in apg and a respectable 12th in ppg. Against the Bucks tonight, they showed all of their offensive abilities en route to an easy win.

What I really like about the Raptors offense is the many ways they get Chris Bosh the ball. They run alot of nice early offense sets for Bosh and because they change it up quite frequently. The effect is that opposing teams get caught off guard and have a real hard time trying to figure the Raptors out. In a span of just 3 possessions in the first quarter, you'll see them run an early post-up, then a PNR, then a drive and dump,

I just realized that I didn't include the flex screen in the clip above which is what I really wanted to show. With all the different early offense, this is my favorite. Obviously the Bucks were not prepared for it, otherwise they would've switched to cover.

Baseline Flex Screen:

You can see that it's a set play to start. Bosh is the trailer, Nesterovic is already setup on the ball-side low block,

Nesterovic comes pivots towards Bosh and comes to the weak-side block to set a flex screen for Bosh who curls around baseline side and gets a crisp pass from Calderon for the finish,


So with such a great offense, that can beat you inside, outside, off the dribble, over the top, why are the Raptors just 38-39 and 7th in the weaker Eastern conference? Well, it's all about the defense. Case in point, they let Charlie Villanueva (granted he was on a vendetta) to go off for 38 points. The Raptors cannot stop 1v1 penetration and they don't closeout shooters. The Raptors won't get by the Pistons unless they can pick up defensively. It can be done, but their attitude towards defense must change. I can see why Toronto fans are apprehensive.

A brand new early offense video worth checking out is Joe Mihalich's DVD on Practice Drills for the Fast Break. Joe Mihalich is the head coach at Niagara University. Be sure to head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Still have kind of a hangover from the great NCAA Championship game last night. I watched a couple of NBA games tonight but I admit that didn't have a chance to really do much capture and analysis. I watched the first half of the the Celtics game against the Bucks and it looked to be over early. Until I found out later on Sportscenter that Rivers kept the subs in thru the 4th quarter (and lost the lead) and had the subs tough it out to win it in OT.

I caught this clip in the second quarter mainly to show why we teach big forwards out there to keep that ball up at the chin or higher. Andrew Bogut receives the inbounds but drops the ball to his waist where Glen 'Big Baby' Davis pokes it out of his hands and the eventual fast break score by Tony Allen,

The concept we as coaches refer to is, "chin the ball". We tell our players that they should catch the ball with 2 hands, then chin the ball. Keep it squeezed between your 2 hands, close to the chest underneath the chin. From this screenshot, Bogut drops the ball to his waist where it's poked away,

I was browsing pictures and I found this picture from the same game with ironically Glen Davis "chinning the ball" with Bogut guarding him (well sort of, it's not textbook but it's better than Bogut),

I thought it was a bold move by Doc Rivers to stay with the subs late in the game. That's how they learn how to win, by being in those situations. There's no better way to learn than to be actually playing rather than sitting on the bench watching. For the Bucks, there are no moral victories knowing they got beat by the Celtics subs.

If you have a big man you're looking to work with this off-season, then you might want to look at Ganon Baker's new DVD on Skill Development for Post Players. Talk big man skills at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Is it just me or is everyone else still stunned at the outcome of the NCAA Championship game tonight. I still can't believe that Memphis was unable to win the game with a 9-point lead and 2 minutes to go. It's one of those things where just about everything bad that could happen, happened to Memphis. While, just about everything good that could possibly happen, happened to Kansas.

There were the missed FTs, and I feel extremely bad for Coach Calipari who will never hear the end of it, especially after he kept saying "we'll make the ones that count at the end of the game" to anybody who would hear him. But to me, the strategy to not foul with a 3-point lead was the one that I take away as the one simple thing Memphis could have done to secure the win.

For Memphis and dribble drive motion fans, this isn't easy to watch. For Kansas and Bill Self fans, you'll probably replay it over and over,

I watched the post-game interview between Sam Ryan and John Calipari outside the locker room after the game. Despite Coach Cal saying they had intended to foul and that the refs just didn't call the foul, I think it's clear from looking at the video that there was no strategy to foul. In fact, Rose has his hands in the air trying to avoid Collins who is already falling down by his own mis-steps,

After Collins hands the ball off to Chalmers (barely), both #5 Anderson and #23 Rose do not make any attempt to foul Chalmers either right away or anytime after. This despite 5.1 seconds still on the clock,

Before the season started, I wrote about this exact situation. Do you foul if you have a 3-point lead? Last year, Xavier had a 3-point lead with 9 seconds to go and Ohio St. hit the game-tying 3-pointer. It seems every year it comes up again and again, I would've thought it would be standard operating procedure by now to foul. In my coaching experience, I've always believed in fouling with anything 10 seconds or less full-court, you foul the ball-handler as soon as the ball reaches half, which should take 3-4 seconds off the clock. Anything under 5 seconds anywhere on the court with a 3-point lead should be an automatic foul on inbounds.


Kansas is well-deserving of the National Championship. But you get the sense that Memphis lost it much more so than Kansas won it. I've won games like that before coming from behind and I had an almost embarrassed feeling. Memphis played so well in the second half breaking down all the different defensive looks Self threw at them. Until the dreaded FTs... Well, it was a game for the ages and I'm sure we'll be discussing it for many many months and years to come.

Free throws got you singing the blues? Take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. Coach Palubinskas has worked with professionals such as Lisa Leslie, Shaquille O'Neal and recently Lauren Jackson. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.