If there was ever a case of why defense matters, especially in the last 2 minutes of a game, yesterday's game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns was a textbook case in point. Sometimes, we often think about and incorrectly emphasize how this offensive play or player was key, or "clutch", etc... But practically speaking, it's usually a bad defensive sequence or lapse which allows the offense to take advantage.

The situation going into the final 2 minutes of the game was this: The game was close throughout, the Spurs got some separation late in the 4th quarter. Then the Phoenix Suns made some great defensive plays, capitalized on offense, and cut the lead to just 3 points. The Spurs come down the floor, the play looked innocent and undeveloped, a Pick and Pop handoff from Parker, to Duncan, handoff to Ginobili, then the defensive breakdown. Take a look,


There was nothing fancy. There was a simple miscommunication between Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Richardson. Hill was defending Parker, Richardson on Ginobili and O'Neal on Duncan. On the pass to Duncan and Parker screen away for Ginobili, Hill and Richardson get caught chasing the ball, which leaves Parker wide open on the pop out,

If the Suns had not gotten crossed up on defense, then the Spurs probably would've gone to an ISO 1v1 and taken their chances that way. Maybe the would've scored too, maybe not. But Parker's shot was an easy one, a wide open 18 footer, can't get any easier than that.


At end of games, it's defense and rebounding which count the most. Your players and their abilities will determine the teams success offensively in the "clutch," but tactically, defense and emphasis on rebounding is what a coach can effectively control and manage. If you play great defense and rebound, and the offense just makes an unbelievable shot, then there's nothing you can do but hold your head up and say that there wasn't anything else to do. But when you have a defensive lapse, that's why you have to go back to the drawing board, make sure players know what their assignments are, what the gameplan defensively is, and correct the mistakes going forward.

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.