Basketball and the Night Watch.
Defending the Long Line
Defending the Corner Versus the Four Out
A fellow coach and I had a long discussion a few years back about how to defend what I call the 'long line', or the passing lane between a guard with the ball on top looking to drive right for a lay-up with a teammate in the corner looking to catch and shoot the three after his/her defender goes to help stop the penetration. The difficulty in defending this action is one of the primary reasons that coaches run the dribble drive or four-out offense; it stretches the defense almost to its breaking point. At the time, I didn't think there was any one great way to defend that option, and I wrote a blogpost referring to it as a contradiction that needed to be resolved by which I meant it needed to be practiced, not so that the defender would ever master the skill, but the effort would at least help to increase his/her reaction speed and help them to get better at both stopping the penetration and recovering to contest the shot in the corner. In most cases, I still believed that by helping on the drive, the shooter would still get a good shot off, sometimes contested, sometimes not.
I now think I may have been wrong. I came home the other night from a scrimmage in San Jose and couldn't sleep. Later that night, I started thinking about that action. I think I was being triggered by something that happened in the scrimmage where the other team came down on offense, and we didn't have any body in the gap defending the pass to the girl in the corner. We we ended up breaking down and giving up an easy bucket. The girl who was supposed to be defending the gap was just to the right of the ball side block, lined up almost directly behind the ball's defender in order to stop the drive to the basket. I think she was worried about being back-doored. Suddenly I began to picture the right angle triangle involved. Seeing the triangle in my head helped me to realize that the defender needs to place him/herself between the driving lane and passing lane at a point where he/she can go from threatening the passing lane from a closed position with the denial hand held thumbs down. The moment that the dribbler tries to get by the ball defender on that side, the corner defender needs to open up to the ball, stay down and take two steps straight across to interdict the drive to the basket. It is important to emphasize the straight across movement as many defenders will make the mistake of moving upward toward the ball and thereby increasing the length of the recovery run.
Arriving at the help position, it is important to still maintain a lowered stance, and sit across the driving lane at about a forty-five degree angle while pointing the inside shoulder toward where the free throw line and the opposite lane line meet. This staggered stance allows the defender to point his/her outside foot toward the offensive person in the corner. If the pass goes to the corner, the defender should push off on the inside foot and keeping their shoulders low take two big steps toward the corner.
The threat of being back-doored can be mitigated by keeping pressure on the ball and having the weak side help defenders treating the action like a downside rotation drill, or the same as they would defend a baseline drive. Also, by placing their hand thumbs down in the passing lane, the defender gives his/herself an arm's length cushion to recover if the person in the corner disappears behind the defender's shoulder.
Points of Emphasis
1) Two-steps- The defender's original position should be predicated by his/her ability to arrive at any of the positions needed by taking two quick steps either to the side or toward the corner.
2) Staggered help stance - The defender needs to turn their bodies to indict the drive at a forty-five degree angle which allows him/her to point outside foot toward the corner. This allows the defender to use the inside foot to thrust toward the corner.
3) Straight across - cut the driving lane directly opposite of where the passing lane is being defended. Do not run up to intercept the drive.
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