As coaches, we talk a lot about finishing games. Naturally, the end of the game is where we want to be our sharpest. One area that sort of gets overlooked though is starting games strong. I always feel like if we start a game strong, we build confidence, get into a rhythm and keep the pressure on the opposing team to adjust to what we are doing. It's especially important to get off to a good start when playing on the road, where there are so many factors against you.

I watch a lot of basketball games and I like a lot of things about the San Antonio Spurs. One of those things I like about the Spurs is how they start games. They move the ball and get everyone touches early on. It almost looks like Gregg Popovich has scripted the first 6 minutes or so of the game. Though the Spurs would lose this game eventually, the value of a good start to a game cannot be underestimated, especially at the high school level where you play only 40 minutes. Here are the first 4 out of 5 possessions by the Spurs tonight,

First one to score is Finley off of a pick and slip. Second is Bowen on the baseline reversal. Third is Parker off of a ball screen. Finally, Duncan hits the jumper off of a dump off by Parker. An 8-2 run to start the game in the first 4 minutes, not bad at all. Also, notice how everyone touches the ball. This is a great way to get those early nervous jitters out of the way, allow everyone to touch the ball and get into the game early on.

Stagger to Pick and Slip:

This is the first play from the clip. It's just a set play designed to get Michael Finley an open mid-range jumper.

Starts off in a sort of 1-4 high formation. O3 is Finley. Duncan pops out to receive the first pass. Bowen clears out. Parker then sets up at the wing and gets the pass back from Duncan.

Oberto and Duncan set stagger screens for Finley.

Finley comes off the stagger screens and looks to set a ball-screen for Parker. Both X3 and X1 move with Parker because Parker is a threat to drive. This allows Finley to slip the screen to the mid-range spot and Parker finds him for the open jumper.


I like getting off to good starts. I hate having to come back from behind. When you play with the lead, it allows you to do so many things. As a coach at the lower levels, the lead gives you the flexibility to play many different players and try different combinations. It's much more difficult when you're behind, and you HAVE to play a certain lineup to catch up.

If you're a fan of the Spurs like me, you'll want to watch Gregg Popovich's DVD on his favorite plays and drills. Again, the Spurs philosophy on valuing each possession is one that is sometimes lost in the ever-popular transition game, but when you talk about big games, playoff games, championship games, you must have an efficient half-court offense that maximizes shot opportunities. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.