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How to: Play Good Defense


NBA

Mastering the other half of the game


At its heart, basketball can be a simple game, with teams aiming to put the ball into the basket and to prevent their opponents from doing the same. From this perspective, defense accounts for half of the beautiful game. Correspondingly, there are as many things to work on as there are ways to score on offense, from dribble containment to playing the passing lanes.


Individual defense: The aim of a good defensive player is to force tough decisions for your man, be it a bad shot or a risky pass. This is done through sticking close to your man in a solid defensive stance and developing your anticipatory instincts to deny easy passes or uncontested shots, instead of trying to gamble for steals or blocks. Off-ball defense is a frequently overlooked aspect of defensive play, but chasing your man off screens and cuts often takes even more effort than on-ball defense.


Team defense: Individual defense is simple compared to the kaleidoscope that is team defense, where selflessness in the game truly begins. Team defense takes good positioning and quick rotations, which are impossible without constant communication on and off the court. By defending together, a team is able to suffocate their opponents’ offensive game plan. 


Conditioning: Beyond technique, defense is about discipline and will. Maintaining the proper defensive stance throughout a game and staying close to your man requires stamina and lateral speed, which can only result from hard work and hours in the gym. Basketball can be a physically demanding game, and whether you excel on defense is often a matter of who gives up first. If you are winded, just remember this: the guy you are guarding is craving for a break too. Don’t give him or her this chance to rest.