Living in Vancouver, I get a lot of Toronto Raptors games. I watched them lose yesterday to the Hornets and though the Bobcats looked like a gimme game tonight, it proved to be anything but. It was a game of runs for sure. The Raptors made their run in the 1st, then the Bobcats stormed out in front in the 2nd. The Raptors tightened the screws in the second half and would hold on to win. I like the Bobcats, but they just have too many chronic injuries right now. They won't be making the playoffs again, but they have a nice future.

In this play right before the half, Raymond Felton takes advantage of a bad hedge by Nesterovic and gets right into the lane for a wrap-around pass to Okafor for the dunk,

Actually, I just posted the other day about the hedge technique showing Kevin Love of UCLA running it to perfection. The thing about it is, the hedge is not an easy maneuver to learn and master. If not executed properly, your defense can be placed way out of position as you essentially lose 2 defenders.

Splitting the Double:

In the slow motion capture, you can see what goes wrong here. Nesterovic comes out for the hedge late. Therefore, he attempts to make up for his mistake by taking a step outside and does not maintain contact with the screener. For a quick guard like Felton, that's like the parting of the red sea,

Proper Hedge:

To properly hedge, the defender must defensive slide North-South (baseline to baseline). The defender must also maintain within hand contact with the screener until the ball-handler has crossed at least half-man, then sprint back in recovery. Kevin Love of UCLA shows us how it's supposed look like,


This post kind of morphed into a how not-to instead of a great play. But for the Raptors, their Achilles heel right now as they approach the playoffs is perimeter defense. They allow way too much dribble penetration and they play soft. They have a lot of skill offensively, but against good teams like Detroit and Cleveland, they will have problems defending the perimeter. They simply don't have the quickness (as witness in the improper hedge), nor the physicality to match.

If one of your players is looking for quickness improvement, Alan Stein has a new DVD on improving reaction and quickness. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to get all of your hoops fill.

The game of the day went to Kansas vs Davidson. It wasn't a particularly great offensive game for both but they managed to do some good things defensively. Davidson did a good job by playing a sort of packline M2M while Kansas went to the box and 1 junk defense in the second half.

I'm actually surprised Bill Self did not switch up to the box and 1 defense earlier in the game. Once Stephen Curry hit that 3-pointer, then that amazing slice-and-dice layup, I thought it was time for a change. Well the Jayhawks eventually made a change in the second half and Curry would only score 10 points the rest of the way. Here are a few clips of Kansas in their box and 1 guarding Curry,

I'm not usually a fan of the junk defenses, but when it comes to the playoffs, you have to get a little creative. The box and 1 actually broke down later in the game when Bryant Barr started going crazy hitting all those shots. For the life of me, I can't figure out why they took him out of the game. I know he's not a regular starter, but when a guy is hot like that, you ride him until he comes up empty.

Kansas Box and 1 Junk Defense:

Anyways, here is a quick rundown of the box and 1. Basically, it's like a 2-3 zone except you take one of the defenders and make him play M2M 1v1 on the other team's best player,

When the ball moves to the wing, the whole box shifts to the ball-side. X2 stays on the line on O2,

Finally, if O2 does get the ball, the nearest zone defender must step up and help on O2. The idea is that the star always sees 2 defenders when in possession of the ball. Force the pass and make the other players try to beat you,


Kansas didn't play very well at all. What saved them was that Davidson got worn down. Kansas had the much easier draw to get to the elite eight while Davidson had 3 very tough games in a row. Despite all that, Curry made a big 3-pointer at the end and Davidson was 1 lucky bounce away from going to the final four, but alas, it wasn't to be. So now we have 4 x number 1 seeds, it is going to be great.

If you like Kansas, you probably want to check out Bill Self's DVD on the High/Low Offense. Kansas didn't run much of the high/low all year, but Coach Self is the guru of the offense and worth taking a look if you are so inclined. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It didn't end up being a very close game at all as UCLA was simply too good in all aspects of the game today. UCLA's defense was solid throughout and Xavier was unable to make any big runs.

One of the things that UCLA does really well defensively is the way they defend ball screens. There are many ways to defend perimeter ball screens, one of those is the hedge. UCLA has used the hedge almost exclusively all year and it really bothered Xavier as Lavender was unable to use the screen to turn the corner and make a play. Here are a few sequences from the first half, showing Kevin Love hedging on the ball screen,

There are a few ways coaches/commentators refer to the hedge. Some say, "show hard" or "hard hedge", they all mean the same thing. Basically what happens is the screener's defender comes out to impede the ball-handler's progress forcing the ball-handler to take a few retreat steps. This allows the original defender to recover on the check and the screener's defender can recover back to his original defender.

The Hedge:

Kevin Love of UCLA does a great job each time on the hedge. On a couple of occasions, he even slightly bumps the ball-handler further slowing him down,

The other important key about the hedge is for the help-side defenders to rotate and gap the other players, specifically to protect the basket. Watch here as Love tells Real-Mata to cover rolling man until he is able to get back,


The hedge maneuver on the ball-screen is not the easiest concept to master. Therefore it requires a lot of practice to be able to be good at it and not give up easy baskets, which would be counter-effective.

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.

How Wisconsin Lost the Game

Before I get going into the post, I want to start off by saying hats off to Davidson. They made great plays both defensively and offensively whenever they needed and once again Stephen Curry was sensational. They are a great team.

I watched almost the entire game and it wasn't very good for Wisconsin right from the start. I think they came out way too confident. Their trademark hard-nosed M2M defense was absent. Their offense was too stationary. They got some offensive rebounds to stay even through the first half, which I thought they were extremely lucky to be tied. But you could tell Davidson wanted to win a lot more.

The second half was just a disaster for Wisconsin, especially offensively. They started the half taking some questionable shots and then they started with the excessive and unnecessary fouling. Here are a few of the bad sequences from early in the second half where they basically lost this game,

It was as if a completely different team showed up to play tonight. All the things you associate with Badger basketball, tough M2M defense, patient offense, instead gave way to soft slow-moving feet, panic 3-pointers with plenty on the clock, and the worst was of course the ridiculous fouls. This one from Stiemsma is unbelievable. This was a premeditated forearm to the head,


It was so uncharacteristic of Wisconsin. The quick shots by Flowers and Butch, at a time in the game when they were behind by 2-5 points with 15 minutes. Then the cheap fouls, simply inexcusable. The irony in it all is that Wisconsin was supposed to be a model of discipline, yet they couldn't compose themselves when they needed to the most.

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 was the best matchup of the night and it did not disappoint between the Xavier Muskateers and the West Virginia Mountaineers. It was one of those games where nobody deserved to lose. But there can be only 1 winner and lucky for Xavier it was them.

Heading into the game, Xavier was one of the best 3-pointer shooting teams in the country (top 25). At the end of this game, 3-point shooting would say alot, Xavier ended up shooting 11-for-19 while WVU went 1-for-11. Xavier does a great job getting 3-point shots in a variety of ways and a variety of situations. In this clip, they score off of an inbounds, a fast break and finally a drive and kick,

Though at times, it doesn't appear that Xavier runs much of an organized offense (they primarily run set plays, no motion). But they really understand how to get open. That is a a key concept for any team that shoots the 3-pointer as well as Xavier does.

Flare Screen:

I don't think this was even the real design of the play. But Lavender screens the 2 defenders allowing Brown to flare to the 3-point line for an open 3,

Ball Screen:

I'll admit, the screen here by Burrell was a moving screen. But the idea here is what we're getting at. Off the break, set an open court screen for Lavender to step into a shot off the break,

Drive and Kick:

This is just great court awareness. Burrell drives baseline and actually gets caught here. But Jackson knows it's his job to shuffle to the weak side corner on the drive and set his feet in case the pass comes along the baseline,


Xavier now faces their biggest game of their lives, possibly for the entire program's history this Saturday in the elite eight matchup against UCLA. Though the Muskateers don't press much full court, from watching the WKU/UCLA game, it was clear that UCLA was exposed in 2 ways, problems handling the full-court press (esp. point-guard depth) and open-court 3-pointers. If Xavier can somehow get 1 or both of those things going, they could pull of the mighty upset.

Look for a shooting video? A nice new 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.

The 76ers are all the rage at the moment. They've only lost twice in the month of March and are climbing quickly up the standings. They played the Bulls at home tonight and absolutely ran them out of the building. Now, I know it was just the Bulls who have imploded as of late but still, the 76ers are looking very impressive indeed.

The fast break and 3-point shooting as everyone else has pointed are the main reasons why the 76ers have been so successful. But it is the way they are doing it on the defensive end that allows them to run their break. The 76ers don't run early offense, instead they rely on steals and rebounds to get easy possessions. They allow their defense to become their best offense. Here are a few possessions from the first half,

One of the things about early offense is the tendency to become lackadaisical on defense. If you watch Denver or Golden State, you'll know what I mean. The 76ers instead, almost only run off a rebound or steal exclusively. The advantage being that on a steal or rebound, it is much easier to score on the primary break and also safer than playing too fast and forcing plays in early offense.

In this screenshot, Andre Miller does a great job to save the ball to his teammate. The rest of the 3 players are already running the break,

Rebounding is key for any fast-break team. Here, Andre Miller rebounds down, pivots and makes a great outlet pass to his teammate who has leaked out on the play,


In coaching, you hear the saying that the team plays like its coach. 76ers Coach Maurice Cheeks was all about the defense, especially steals. So it is fitting that the 76ers play like their coach. The 76ers forced 14 Bulls TOs, 12 were steals. You can bet that most of those steals ended up as baskets.

Your team won't be a good fast break team unless your players practice it. For a brand new video that might be worth a good look check out 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.

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I found this picture while browsing through galleries the other day. It was taken during a game between the Lakers and Warriors on the weekend. Coach Phil Jackson looks mentally drained here. I know he said he will be back next year, but you have to wonder how much longer he has left to give.

Phil Jackson is one of my favorite coaches because of his demeanor. He's always so calm and under control. Sometimes when I'm out of control on the sidelines, I try to think to myself, how would Coach Jackson react? Probably much differently.

I continued to be amazed by the New Orleans Hornets terrific season so far. Portland had their run early on and faded, Houston was the golden child for February/March, and now the 76ers are the new team to jump on the bandwagon. But from the very start of the season, the Hornets have persisted.

It should be no real surprise though, they have outstanding point-guard play at both ends (if not Lebron, CP4 is my MVP), a great shooter in Stojakovic, and solid finishing forwards. To top it off, they play a solid switching M2M defense and have a very smart head coach in Byron Scott.

One of the signs of a well coached team is how well the players execute SLOB and BLOB plays. And in fact, if they score off of them. In the game tonight against the Pacers, the Hornets scored on 2 such plays in the first half and here they are,

Double Stagger SLOB:

The double-stagger screen is a great way to get your shooter open for a SLOB or BLOB play when you have very little time left on the shot clock. It's interesting that Stojakovic chose to pump-fake, then shoot as opposed to catch and shoot. Perhaps, he was trying to draw a 4-point play,

Screen the Screener BLOB:

In this play, it's just a simple screen the screener. First Pargo sets a pick for Ely, then Pargo gets a screen from West and comes to the ball where he catches and shoots. The switch comes late allowing Pargo to get the shot off,


It's hard to know how the Hornets will do in the playoffs next month. On the one hand, they've had this incredible season, but on the other hand, they're really young and inexperienced. Though if you look at how Utah played last year, their relative inexperience didn't hold them back at all. Depending on the matchups they get, if they're lucky, I could easily see them going all the way to June.

For some great special teams info from a great charismatic coach, take a look at Bruce Pearl's DVD on OB nuggets. Though he talks more about executing BLOB, it's a good insight into the mind of a great X's and O's coach. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

With all the craziness of the past few days of the first round of the NCAA Tournament I haven't had a chance to watch many NBA games. But with this break in between rounds, I did catch a big matchup between the Suns and Pistons tonight.

I knew that the Suns were a hot team going in having won 7 in a row. I watched a segment on ESPN where they explained that the Suns had moved away from a fast-break spread offense to more of a flex-based and triangle-based half-court offense. A bunch of stats were quoted, but it basically boiled down to more of a slow-it-down playoff type game. So naturally that piqued my interest to see what the Suns are doing now and I took 2 clips from the first half showing their new offense. The first one is their flex and the second is their triangle offense,

Flex Offense:

The Suns have always used the flex screen, both the baseline and downscreens that are common to the flex offense. But with Shaq now, they use the flex as their primary option. They usually start off with Nash setting a baseline screen for Grant Hill to flash thru the key first, then Shaq will come and set a downscreen for Steve Nash who comes off the screen looking for a shot,

If the shot isn't there, Steve gets the ball down to Shaq down low then sets a diagonal flex screen for Amare who comes off gets the pass and shoots the open jumper,

Triangle offense:

The new wrinkle that the Suns do on offense now is a variation of the triangle offense that Shaq was familiar with when in Los Angeles. Once the ball goes into Shaq, it's a 2 man game with Amare receiving the pass. Amare can then shoot the mid-range, go baseline or drive middle. Here, Amare drives middle where he finds an open Grant Hill cutting baseline,


I like what the Suns have done offensively. They still run some spread PNR, but because Shaq is now O5 and posted up on the low block, Amare doesn't have the clear lane to throw it down off a Nash pass. The Suns are really now mostly about the flex and triangle. It's very complimentary to the players that they have now. The flex has allowed Steve to become a primary scoring option with all the open 3-pointers he gets. Give Mike D'Antoni all the credit for adapting, and doing it mid-season.

Defensively, I think they still need some work. Though their ppga is down, I think that is mostly due to the slower pace they play now. The Suns run a lot of zone now, and on M2M, they still don't take great pride in stopping their man and helping each other. They must still get better in this area, especially M2M, or they won't beat the better teams in the playoffs.

The innovator of the triangle offense, a version of the triple-post continuity is Tex Winter. For more on the triangle, you should look at Tex Winter's DVD on the Encyclopedia of the Triangle Offense. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

The 2 lowest seeds left in the tournament are #12 WKU and #12 Villanova. I think that Villanova could be the best #12 seed I've seen in a long time (as far as I know, George Mason was an 11 seed in 2006). Anyways, after a shaky start in the Clemson game, Villanova has really hit it's stride. Part of the reason why they've been successful in the first 2 rounds has been their ability to handle pressure. Both Clemson and Siena pressed full-court the whole game and though the Wildcats did turn the ball over, I thought overall, their +/- was even or + against the press. Here are 2 sequences, 1 in the first half and 1 in the second half of Villanova's press break,

2 things I always like to stress for any press break.

1. Use the ball reversal. Not only does the reversal work and is very safe, by continuously reversing the ball against pressure, you wear out the defense in the long run,

2. Have one of your forwards in the middle. This way, you can get a high pass to a tall forward in the middle of the floor. Pivot, then pass over the defense, very effective in breaking even-man front presses.


Part of the problem in the Clemson game early on was just the inexperience factor. Villanova plays a number of freshman and those guys tend to get caught up in the moment of their first NCAA tournament. But once they settled down and executed their press break, they came from behind to beat Clemson and Siena never really threatened.

Next up are the Kansas Jayhawks, a whole different beast. The Wildcats unfortunately don't matchup well, but if they can take care of the ball in the half-court and stay in single-digits, Kansas has a tendency to get tight in close games and the Wildcats could steal one.

If you're a big Villanova fan, a 4-out 1-in motion guy, or just like the stuff Jay Wright runs, check out Jay Wright's 5-pack DVD. Talk about your favorite press break at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

It started out as a really close game but in the end, Kansas was just too athletic, too skilled against a smaller UNLV team who played as good as they could've possibly played in their second round matchup. One of the things that makes Kansas so good is their ability to anticipate and steal passes in the half-court.

Statistically, Kansas ranks among the top 20 teams in steals at around 9 per game. Considering that Kansas almost never presses full-court like a Tennessee, Memphis or Lousiville (who rank higher because they press), that is quite a remarkable feat. Here are 2 quick sequences from the first half,

To be honest, I like steals in the half-court a lot better than full-court or even 3-quarter court because once you steal the ball, it almost always result in an uncontested layup the other end. Here are 2 screenshots from the clips above,

If you want your players to make those kinds of steals in the half-court, it won't happen by just you as a coach telling them to do it. As with everything else, uou need to drill it and practice it. I wrote about some deflection drills that you can try that might help your team develop that kind of mentality.

If you're looking for some more defensive drill stuff, take a look at Jamie Dixon's new DVD on his 10-point shell drill for better M2M 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.

The biggest upset of the day, 7th seeded West Virginia beat 2nd seeded Duke in a battle of similar yet different teams. Both play a sort of spread offense with no traditional post players and tough M2M defense. In the end though, the Mountaineers made the shots that counted in the 2nd half while Duke did not.

I really marveled watching West Virginia all season long. They play a hybrid version of Bob Huggins' Open Post motion offense and John Beilein's Princeton-styled 5-out offense. It is similar to Duke in that both shoot a lot of 3-pointers, but there's a lot more back door options and is more motion-based than Duke's spread offense. Here are a few clips from a critical point in the second half where the Mountaineers closed the gap and took the lead for good,

Off-ball Screening Options:

In this series of 2 plays, the Mountaineers run the same action. They get to a 4-out situation and an off-ball screen is set for forward Joe Alexander. Depending on how the defense plays the screen, Alexander will either curl off shoulder-to-shoulder all the way to the rim, or v-cut back to the ball for the 3-pointer.

Here, the defense tries to trail over the top with no switch allowing Alexander to get all the way to the rim and finishes while fouled,

In the next offensive series, the Mountaineers run the same exact play. Except this time, the defense decides to go underneath. Alexander sees this and instead cuts back to the ball and receives the pass for the open 3-pointer,

Shuffle Cut:

With the shot clock winding down, Alex Ruof reads an overplay defensively by Jon Scheyer, so he fakes coming to the ball then shuffle cuts to the corner to receive the pass for the catch and shoot 3-pointer,


In many ways, West Virginia's motion offense was exactly the kind of offense that could beat the overly aggressive defense of Duke. The Mountaineers face Xavier in the next round which play a more traditional keep-in-front M2M. If the Mountaineers can match Xavier defensively, their offense is good enough to get them the win.

If your a fan of the open post or 5-out motion is Bob Huggins' DVD on the Open Post Motion. 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.

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Wow, what a day in the NCAA tournament. From the WKU/Drake game to Gonzaga/Davidson to UConn/San Diego and finally Villanova/Clemson. It was probably one of the greatest single days I've ever seen since I've been watching the tournament. Just tremendous basketball all around.

There are so many great highlights and plays to analyze from those great games which I will at a later day, but I decided to make this post about the great game between Oklahoma and St. Joe's. Oklahoma did a great job in the first half running their half-court offense. They were beating the double-teams down low on Griffin and they ran the 1-4 high set a few times and it was very effective. Oklahoma looked kinda shaky when St. Joe's turned up the full-court pressure in the 2nd half, but they did manage to overcome St. Joe's surge. Here are some clips of that 1-4 high they ran,

The 1-4 High Double Screen:

I'm a big fan of both the 1-4 high and 1-4 low sets. Oklahoma runs this set play out of the 1-4 high very well. It's basically a UCLA cut to a double ball-screen with both screeners rolling. Here is the UCLA cut,

Then the double-ball screens,

What happens is that X4 follows O4 through the lane, X1 stays in the lane to protect against O4 cutting thru the lane. X5 switches on the screen by O5 to cover O2 on the dribble. X2 gets caught fighting over top of the double screens. This leaves O5 and O1 basically wide open on the weak-side.

Longar (O5) gets the pass and makes a nice layup,

In the second clip, St. Joe's anticipates the first ball screen, so what O2 does is jab step up (to fake X2 high), then drive down baseline towards the hoop,


Oklahoma faces a really tough test against Louisville on Sunday. The Sooners did struggle against the pressure of St. Joe's in the second half, and Louisville's press is probably twice as hard to break. But if Oklahoma can settle down, break the press, and execute in the half-court, they could upset the Cardinals, but it's not going to be easy.

For a great video on the 1-4 high offense, check out Tubby Smith's DVD on the 1-4 High Offense. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

One game that really took me by surprise today in the 16 first round games of the tournament was UNLV's domination over Kent St. I've seen Kent St. play a couple of times and they looked good, especially the way they play defense. But they committed so many unexplainable turnovers over and over that pretty much doomed them by halftime.

But credit UNLV, they played their game and didn't let the moment of being in the tournament get the best of them. UNLV doesn't have a lot of height, but they play fast. In this clip, it shows them running the fast break,

The other day, I wrote about what not to do on a 3-on-1 fast break. UNLV does the exact opposite here. They dribble right down the middle forcing the defense to commit before making the pass. Textbook,


The Running Rebels have the unenviable task of going up against Kansas next. I don't think they matchup well as Kansas is not a team that you can press against due to their superior size, speed and overall athleticism. But really, the Rebels don't really have anything else they can rely on. If they can somehow force some turnovers early, and make Kansas just a little self-conscious they could steal the win.

If you're a big UNLV fan, then you'll probably want to look at Lon Kruger's DVD on his Essential Drills. Talk fast break at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Basketball is full of cliches and you've probably heard this one a million times, "basketball is a game of adjustments", but in the case of Washington State vs Winthrop today, it really was about the adjustments. With the score tied 29-29 at the half, the Cougars went on a 25-1 run to start the second half and of course they never looked back.

It truly was one of the best defensive halves I've seen probably ever. Now, part of it had to do with Winthrop unable to make shots, but a lot of it had to do with the switch to move Derrick Low to cover the Eagles top scorer Chris Gaynor. Overall though, the Cougars probably play as good defense as you'll see in all of college basketball.

Just what makes Washington St. so great on defense is their system. Coach Tony Bennett, son of Dick Bennett, created the pack-line and the Cougs have been running it since the older Bennett installed it back in the day. In the 2 years that Tony Bennett has been the head coach, the Cougs have ranked in the top 20 in points allowed and finished 3rd overall this season with 57 ppga (behind Wisconsin and Stephen F. Austin).

The Packline:

It's not really a major break from your traditional M2M offense. It's still basically all the fundamentals of a M2M defense but what they do is they put pressure on the ball on whomever has possession, and all the other defenders play help-side or in coach-speak we say, "up the line",

The reason why they call it a packline is because all the defenders (except the one defending the ball) must stay inside the imaginary line. When a pass is made, the defender is taught to close-out to the ball with proper footwork and high hands to prevent the shot. The other defenders rotate to provide helpside.

The real advantage in running the packline is that it prevents dribble penetration and forces teams to shoot from the outside. The other big advantage is that the packline makes it easy to double down the post because the it shortens the distances in between,

The Cougs move on to face Notre Dame in the second round. The key to that matchup will be whether or not Notre Dame is able to shoot well from the perimeter. If they are able to, it will force the Cougs to stretch their packline to the 3-point line and beyond. Consequently, that will open up opportunities for Luke Harangody down low.

The definitive guide to the packline defense still is Dick Bennett's DVD on the packline 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.

I took in the Magic game against the Wizards tonight. I was looking for some dominating Dwight Howard clips to take but instead wound up taking some clips of great defense against Howard.

There really wasn't anything special in the way they defended Howard. It was a lot of subtle things though. First off, they were very physical with him, they bumped him and forced him outside of the box. Since Howard is a power post player and not really a quicker forward, they could double on the dribble and swipe at the ball when he put it on the floor. Finally, the Wizards did a great job of getting in the passing lanes and intercepting entry passes. Here are a few clips from the first half,

So, as you can see, nothing major but just tough physical defense. In the second clip, Howard pivots to the middle for the left hand baby hook. I like teaching post players the power drop step instead because I think it is much more effective. Going into the middle from the post means having to shoot over your defender(s).

I didn't take a clip of this, but here is a screenshot that shows Hayward fighting Howard for position forcing him to make a swim move and setting up outside of the box,

The Wizards actually didn't double-down on Howard all that much. They played him physical and on the offensive end, they went right at Howard and got him to pick up a few quick fouls.

For more great ideas on the post-defense amongst other defensive topics, check out Jeff Lebo's DVD on defending the post. Coach Lebo is the head coach of Auburn University of the SEC. Be sure so check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss your favorite basketball topics.

The Nuggets have an incredible offense. Proof of that was their 168-point effort in the rout over the Sonics the other night. The problem is that they don't play any defense. And I mean, not at all. It wasn't too long ago that they were playing decent defense, good enough at least for their prolific offense.

Tonight against the Pistons, quite simply, their defense was laughable. I couldn't believe what I was watching, it was as if they were playing in the all-star game. I've seen guys at the Y play harder defense. This is what Nuggets head coach George Karl said after the game,

“We have a defensive personality that is a little scary right now—we’re giving up a lot of points to everyone,” Karl said. “If you had told me we’d shoot 60 percent and score 120 against the Detroit Pistons, I would have been happy, but we need to find some pride on defense.”

Here are some low-lights of the porous Nuggets defense from the first half (when I had to turn it off or risk losing my sanity),

As you can tell, it really bugs me to see really bad defense. It shows a real lack of team effort. I can always tell teams that work hard in practice, they come out and show it on the defensive end. It didn't matter what the Nuggets tried all night, M2M, zone, they simply weren't hustling. There was no pressure on the ball, no rebounding, no transition defense. Here are some numbers to chew on. Pistons shoot 55-for-91 (60%), 12-for-20 from 3pt (60%), total rebounds 40-22 for Detroit (14 offensive rebounds). Just scary numbers.

This screenshot pretty much sums it all for me. All 5 Nuggets basically just stand there and wait for Rip Hamilton to shoot a wide open 3. Not 1 defender even gestured to make a play on him,


With the playoffs drawing nearer and 2 games behind Golden State, the Nuggets will not go anywhere unless they pick up defensively. To me, there really is no excuse to not show up defensively, especially as a professional. Imagine being paid for only doing half of your job responsibilities.

There is a brand new defensive video out, Larry Shyatt's DVD on Developing a Defensive Mindset. Coach Shyatt is an assistant to Billy Donovan at the University of Florida. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Teams that rebound well always have a better chance to win games. On defense, you limit your opponent to 1 shot per possession, while on offense, you can overcome poor shooting by crashing the boards and getting 2nd chances. Having coached some great rebounding teams in the past, I've come to really appreciate the value of good rebounding.

The Celtics went on the road to play the Spurs tonight and after going down 22 points in the first half, they climbed back into the game and would eventually win. Here are 2 sequences in the second half showing the Celtics coming up with some big offensive rebounds to secure the win,

In the first sequence, it's just the positioning of Kendrick Perkins that allows him to beat 5 guys to the ball (though he was helped by a slight shove to Duncan's back),

In this screenshot, Rajon Rando just outhustles Tony Parker to the ball after Garnett's shot. It's debatable whether it would've made any difference if Tony had physically made contact and blocked him out as you usually teach. In the audio, you can hear Sean Elliott talking with the play-by-play man that securing the defensive rebound would be critical for the Spurs,


When teams are so evenly matched, its those intangibles like rebounding, turnovers, free throws that make the difference. You can have a terrible shooting day, but if you rebound well you can stay in games that you really shouldn't be in. Basketball is a funny game that way, but that's the way it is.

For more great rebounding drill ideas, take a look at the late Skip Prosser's DVD on competitive rebounding drills. Coach Prosser was the head coach for Wake Forest before he passed away earlier this year. Head over the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite rebounding drills.

I watched a couple of college games today, but I took a break from March Madness to take in the huge matchup between the Rockets and the Lakers. The Rockets of course are on their historic winning streak and the Lakers are trying to stay positive following the news that Pao Gasol will be gone for a while due to injury.

With the injuries, you knew that Kobe Bryant would step his game and put the Lakers on his shoulders. Exactly how the Rockets would respond defensively would determine how successful they would be today. For the most part, I thought Shane Battier did as good a job 1v1 as you could hope, but what really made the difference was the helpside. Here are a few defensive clips from the 2nd half,

Force Baseline to Helpside:

I think more and more the consensus among coaches is to force baseline to help. Everytime Kobe was able to drive middle, he seemed to either create a good shot or get fouled. In my opinion, in a help-recover M2M defense, you must force baseline instead so that you compress the area for the offensive player to operate and help can come easier as well,

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:

I love this screenshot because in it you can clearly see the Rockets communicating on defense. That's what team defense is all about folks, letting your teammates know where helpside should be. These along with other verbal audibles like yelling "shot" or "dead" are things that players should be doing. There are 4 other teammates on the floor, it seems obvious to let each other know what they are doing. It's like an army unit, always communicating so that everyone knows what their job is. Here, I think it's Hayes or McGrady letting Scola know that he needs to be at the strong-side low block for help-side against Kobe. After getting roughed up all night inside, Kobe decides to jack up an ill-advised 3-pointer,


Ordinarily when a guy goes off for 24 points, it doesn't appear that your team did a good shutting that guy down. But when put that in the context of 11-for-33 and 0-for-4 from 3-point, 2-for-4 FTs, 2 assists and 3 turnovers it looks like a whole lot better. Shane Battier is a great defender, but he wasn't going to be able to shut down Kobe by himself. And that is why the Rockets have won 22 straight, because they've bought into each other defensively and are willing to communicate and do whatever it takes to stop teams from scoring.

A great DVD that breaks down the M2M fundamentals is Tom Izzo's Rebounding and Defensive Drills DVD. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans are a 5th seed this year and I wish them luck all the way. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to get all of your hoops fill.

It's such a great time of year. Conference tournaments are coming down to crunch time and selection Sunday is a few hours away. It's days like this where basketball fans can eat, drink and sleep basketball 24/7.

I watched several games but this was probably the best in terms of back and forth action. It was truly one of those games where both teams deserved to win. Both knocked down shots, both played hard defense, but unfortunately only 1 team gets to move on. I'm talking about Tennessee vs Arkansas.

Both teams have great guards, gamebreakers really. Tennessee has Chris Lofton and Arkansas has Patrick Beverley. But in the end, this game came down to the big boys down low. And Arkansas had the slight edge there late in the game. Here are 3 big offensive plays at the end of the game that gave the Razorbacks the win,

Nothing crazy about the plays but they show that you don't always have to run a 1-4 low or side isolation for your guard to make a play to win the game, you can still run an off-ball screen and roll or backscreen to free up your bigs. Here are a couple of big plays Arkansas used.

UCLA Screen:

It's amazing how after so many decades, this play still works to perfection. I think just about every school or team in the world has a UCLA backdoor screen play somewhere in their playbook. The play is really just a give and go with a UCLA screen that Arkansas uses to get a nice alley-oop dunk for Weems,

Off-ball Screen and Slip:

Another smart play that Arkansas uses at the end of the game. When you run screens for guards at the end of games, most people assume that the ball is going to the guard. Also, because as a coach, the tendency is to coach your players to switch all picks, it's easy for the screener to slip the screen and go right to the basket. That is exactly what Arkansas does here. Charles Thomas actually blows the layup but Darian Townes comes to the rescue with the tip-in,


It's been an up and down season all year long for Arkansas. They started out in the pre-season coaches poll and after some huge wins here in March the Razorbacks definitely look like they'll be dancing next week. John Pelphrey has done a solid job in his first year and the Razorbacks look like they're back on track to returning to the national stage.

For a brand new DVD from one of college basketball's greatest coaches, take a look at Pat Summitt's DVD on Mastering Special Situations. The Lady Vols are getting ready for another final four run. Talk about your late game situations over at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Now that we're headed into the off-season, it's time to work on those individual skills of each of your players. Whether you're looking for some help on shooting, defensive stance or rebounding position, Better Basketball has the video you need. Their set of instructional videos that will change the way you approach skill development for good. Their state of the art teaching methods combined with some of the best pros in the game show you how to get it done. Here are some of the videos they have to offer,

- Better 1 on 1 Offense lays all the groundwork for any young player, and then contains unmatched detail and groundbreaking techniques for the advanced player.
- The video contains 8 chapters, plus sections by Sue, Chauncey, and Rick Barry.
- With fun graphics, footage from international professional basketball, cutting edge filmmaking, and demonstrations of the basketball moves by dozens of players, this video will not only improve your game, it's fun to watch.
- Like all the Better Basketball videos, Better 1 on 1 Offense, aka Scoring from the Perimeter, was written, filmed, and edited with the sole goal of helping players who have a true desire to do whatever is necessary to take their game to the next level.

- Incredibly detailed yet clearly explained techniques. All the basics for kids, and advanced concepts for high-level players & coaches.
- A training regimen and chart are included with the DVD, geared to take the guesswork out of shot development.
- Footage from men’s and women’s international pro hoops is used to illustrate the video’s techniques.
- An entire chapter dedicated to women, including an interview with WNBA star Shay Doron.
- The DVD contains professional filmmaking and detailed, precise graphics. They will facilitate your ability to easily learn the techniques, and make Better Shooting 2 enjoyable to watch.

- Teaches all the basics for youngsters, then dives into advanced moves and techniques for older players and pros
- Ideal for coaches trying to improve their players' dribbling abilities.
- 115 dribbling drills demonstrated by 12-year-old dribbling phenom Andy Garcia.
- Detailed sections explaining how and when to use moves like the Crossover, Spin, Behind the Back, Power Spin, Stutter Step, Pull-Back Crossover, and the Half-Spin and Lean-In.

- Coaches need stoppers, defense wins championships. This video isn't for the selfish player, it's for the player who wants to win.
- Details the keys to shutting down every type of scorer - penetrating guards, post players, slashers, and shooters.
- Explains, in detail, how to defend the toughest situations (such as guarding a player in triple threat), most dangerous moves (such as the crossover), and most frustrating situations (such as a bigger player slowly backing you down).

- Is it possible to develop qualities like court sense, vision, and the instinctive ability to make the right pass at the right time? The answer, thanks to this video, is yes! With Better Passing's 42 game situations, you'll learn how to read the court and develop that sixth sense that all great passers have.
- For each of the 42 situations, you'll learn how to quickly read your teammates, the defense, what pass to make, and where to make it.
- Also contains 13 game hints and passing principles, 16 fun passing drills, the 22 types of passes, and more.

- You'll not only get the fundamentals of playing inside, but also four chapters on scoring, the mentality of a great post player and two chapters devoted to just getting open.
- You'll get 61 minutes from NBA All-Star Jermaine O'Neal. Intelligent, a great speaker, and a student of the game, Jermaine dives into incredible detail on playing inside, and also explains his off season training secrets, how he dominates the defensive end and the boards, and much more.
- Then, 37 minutes from the leading vote getter for the 2006 WNBA All-Star game, Tamika Catchings. She discusses playing inside, her three favorite moves, dealing with the stresses of professional basketball, even what it takes to make the pros.
- Thanks to eye popping graphics, demonstrations by over 30 players, and footage from five different locations, the video is not just a great improvement tool, it's fun to watch.

- the most advanced player improvement video ever produced. The techniques in this video will increase your basketball IQ, and help you develop a set of skills the vast majority of players do not possess.
- Explains the basics of moving without the ball for younger players, but much of the DVD is geared toward advanced concepts for high-level players and coaches.
- How to react to your teammate’s dribble penetration, an essential skill because the drive is the most common offensive act in basketball today. Included in this chapter is an explanation of the Circle Movement.
- Contains bonus sections from Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman and future Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd.

The newest addition to the Better Basketball video collection is JJ Redick's only instructional video. JJ Redick plays for the Orlando Magic and is the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leading scorer while playing collegiately at Duke University. Don't wait, check it out today.

One of the teams that has flown under the radar all year but appear to be ready for a breakout are the youthful Philly 76ers. Coming off an impressive win over Detroit the other night and 6 of their last 7, they came from behind to beat the Bulls tonight on the road.

What's impressed me the most has been their ability to make plays down the stretch. Especially considering their youth. Can they do it in the playoffs?? That remains to be seen, but the 76ers showed poised by coming from behind in the 4th quarter and beating the Bulls on the road. I thought this corner 3-pointer was the key play for the 76ers,

What really makes this play work was the breakdown defensively of Kirk Heinrich. This isn't meant to be an indictment of Kirk, but he simply can't matchup defensively against Andre Miller, he doesn't have the footspeed. What ends up happening is that Luol Deng has to leave his man from the corner which allows Andre to find Rodney Carney in the corner. In fact, the 76ers ran this exact play 3 times and each time Carney knocked down the 3-pointer from the corner,

The 76ers currently are 7th in the East. With the way they play defense and make big plays down the stretch, I can see them making some noise in the playoffs. They're just a smart team that have great chemistry and they get out and really defend (must be a reflection of their coach Maurice Cheeks). They've gotten past the departure of Allen Iverson and they're ready to blaze a new trail with new stars in Andre Iguodola and Andre Miller.

For some info on your players can improve their 1-on-1 perimeter skills, check out Phil Martelli's DVD on becoming a better 1-on-1 player. It has a lot of great drills you can use to help develop those slashing skills that these offenses require. To discuss this and other basketball coaching topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.