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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Man vs Zone Defenses

I played in a rec league basketball game last night, one which we lost by double digits. We weren’t outplayed or worse than our opposition, but we were out shot. On paper and from the start of the game it didn’t look like we would have an issue in winning, but every time the other team shot the ball from deep, the sucker would go in.

So at halftime we decided to forgo playing the 2-3 zone, that had been working in our other games, in favor of a man-to-man defense.

We thought that going man would help to get out on the plethora of shooters the other team had and stop their scoring onslaught. We are not a huge team, but in this game we definitely had the edge inside and we thought that going man would force them into our stronghold and catapult us to the W.

The problem with this thought was our shallow bench. We only have 6 guys on the squad and we are not necessarily the most fit team in the league. Our opponents last night, on the other hand, had as many on the bench as they had on the floor, meaning they had endless supplies of subs.

So what got us in trouble was our stamina. We held our own to start the second half, but the other team was good at pushing the ball up the court on misses, turnovers and makes alike. They basically wore us down.

With 6 minutes left in the game we were down 3. Less than a minute later we were down 4 with the ball, where we could have cut the lead to 2 or 1 with a three-ball.

Problem is that this is about the same time our legs gave out on us. The other team made a run around the 5 minute mark where we went from a possession down to down double digits. They then kept pressing and harassing us. Because of our sea legs we were too exhausted on the offensive end to aggressively create shots and, more importantly, on the defensive end we were sagging off the guys we were guarding, giving them unobstructed looks at the rim.

At the end of the game, this turned out to be our downfall, and to the victors go the spoils.

So the question is when a team should go to man, and when zone is the best bet. In our situation, we went to man to stop their outside shooting and consequently ended up giving them free looks at the hoop.

Had we thought it through, we may have been better off going from a 2-3 zone to a 3-2 or 1-2-2. Reason being is that they weren’t scoring many points inside on our interior D when we were in a zone in the first half. They did do a good job of passing the ball around the perimeter and finding good looks, but they were relatively quiet inside. Had we switched to an odd man front, over playing the perimeter, we could have done a better job on their outside shooting and forced them to come inside.

Now, our situation should have been black and white. We only had 6 guys dressed and most of us had eaten too many buffalo wings at Super Bowl parties the night before, so switching to man, seeing that we would tire easily, should have raised a red flag.

If you have a full squad, can match up athletically against your opposition, and are not fearful of tiring, then you shouldn’t have any reservations about playing man. If, like us, you have only one sub, and are not in the best of shape, then try adjusting your zone to meet your needs. If they are pounding the ball inside, try and 2-3, or if they are draining threes, try an odd manned front, 3-2 or 1-2-2.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

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