Late Game Dead Ball Press Specials


The Regular Fast Break Set and Press Offense I presented in earlier articles are simplified attacks for beating full court pressure.  But sometimes, “Specials” may be needed for Dead Ball Situations.  Especially late in a game, out of a timeout or after a turnover, it’s nice to have something new to use against your opponent.  Something that gives you more options to get the ball in immediately or maybe a special that will lead to a breakaway lay-up.  I always liked to have one of each and I saved them for key moments, usually late in a game when the score was close and time was almost out.  


My “Go to Set” for any tight situation was called “Pack.”  I liked it because it was useful from either an end line or sideline position of inbounding and worked against a Man or Zone Press.  It can be used anytime during the game if pressure is bothering your team on Dead Ball Situations.  To set it up, the on-court players bunch up in a pack directly in front of the player taking the ball out.  When the player with the ball slaps it, the pack breaks apart in different directions and four new pass options become available.  As a backcourt inbound play, Pack can even get you an open layup with a long pass.  This is set up by the point guard calling the number of a teammate (1,2,3,5 – 4 is taking it out) who has the option to go deep if no safety is playing back.  The (4) has the option of throwing over the top to the open player if that player is open and/or ahead of his defender. (Diagram 1)

If a safety is back, then the streaking player must stop, turnaround, and come back to an open area as a safety release. (Diagram 2)  The player taking the ball out of bounds, (4), must be away from the backboard, back off of the baseline so he won’t step on it as he throws a deep pass, and he should look to see if the opponent has a safety back or not.  If (4) decides he cannot throw deep, he must immediately find one of his other three teammates who is open and pass the ball into him.  

Basically, the Pack will split with players heading to their normal sides of the court.  That is, (1) will post himself at the edge of the key, (2) and (3) will go to their respective sides if not called upon to go deep, and (5) will fill the empty spot left by the player who is called to take off deep.  Once the ball came in, the Regular Press Offense now takes shape and we followed the rules of our 2-1-2 alignment (Diagram 2 again) to beat zone presses.  If the defense was pressing Man to Man, then the player with the ball cleared the backcourt and brought the ball up himself.  Another choice was to look for potential passes up court or to the point guard on a hand off, if that is who you want always dribbling the ball up.

Page 004Pack         Page 005Pack 3


A second special I used was called “Spread” and I really liked it for the end of a game.  It was especially effective when ahead and the opponent was most likely to fully-deny all of our players and have no one back as a safety.  I actually picked this up many years ago watching a local high school coach in Fair Oaks, California , David Gonzales, who used it very successfully.  I called it “Spread,” because it is the same play as Pack, only from a spread set.  

Lined up in the Regular Press Offense, with (1) and (5) up and (2) and (3) down court on their sidelines, the Spread Play was generally called in a huddle at the end of a game when we were ahead.  It could also be signaled from the bench on a dead ball (turnover) situation, but that’s not something we did very often.  The (5) set up at the low block, ball side, and on the slap of the ball, he set a screen for (1) as if to free him up for the inlet pass.  The point guard (1) cut off the screen to the low block asking for the ball. (Diagram 3)  Simultaneously, (2) and (3) ran up the sideline toward the ball as if to give help.  After a slight delay following his screen on (1), the (5) took off and was hopefully open for a long pass and dunk or layup.  

Again, as in Pack, if there was a safety back, (5) would just go down a couple of steps, turn around, and come back to serve as a safety inlet at an open spot. (Diagram 4)  Basically, late in a game when down, the opponents have a choice: Front and deny all of the players or give (4) an uncontested look at his four teammates working to get open.  The beauty of Spread is that most coaches choose to have their defense pressure everyone, assuming no opponent would dare throw deep late in a tight game.  Since my teams looked to throw deep all game long and all season long, our (4) was accustomed to throwing this pass and it was hardly a gamble at all for us.

Page 001        Page 002

There are other good late-game Specials out there that coaches use.  Consider finding something you like and add it to your playbook, if you don’t have something already.  You, your team, and your supporters will be glad you did.

Key Teaching Points:

  1. Make sure your (4) checks the height of the ceiling before throwing a long pass from out of bounds.  Don’t hit the top or anything dangling down.

2. Tell (4) to make sure he takes it out deep enough to not step on or over the end line when throwing deep.

3. Train all players to cut hard and sharp on the “slap of the ball” to get open.

4. Deep streaker must be aware of a safety so he can come back to help.

Note: You can find more about press offense, fast breaking, and the speed game in Coach Battenberg’s latest book:  “You Can Run With Anyone – Secrets to a Successful Fast Break Attack.”  



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