Streetball Defense: Defensive Pressure

My favorite quote for Defense has always been “Offense wins games, Defense wins Championships”. It signifies that good offense can help you win many games, but good defense helps you stay on the court longer. However, even the most successful defense CANNOT end the game. It just can’t. You don’t win by blocking 5 shots, or grabbing 7 steals. The ball has to fall through the hoop.

It is an inevitable fact of the game: You will get scored upon.  The sign of a good defender lies not in how often you get scored on, but how you get scored on. Every time your opponent attacks, you should contest the shot, make him work hard to get that shot to fall in. So what is a good contest?

A good contest are actions or factors that lowers their efficiency of making shots/plays. It is not limited to just blocking shots, or stealing your opponent’s dribble. Anything action which increases the chance of you getting the ball back can be considered part of a contest. Although there are many techniques which can help you contest shots and create turnovers, today I want to focus on the fundamental essence of all these techniques: pressure

Pressure is “the threat of committing a mistake”. When you pressure someone with the basketball, you’re essentially making him feel as though he would commit a mistake. This makes him second-guess his decision, and in basketball, that moment of hesitation could spell disaster for him. Just by dropping into your defensive stance, you’re sending the message that you’re ready to react to him — putting pressure on him to make a decision. Should he accept your challenge and try to drive past you? Should he take a safer option and look for someone more open? Should he take a jump shot instead?

Sure, dropping into a defensive stance might make him more hesitant in attacking, but that’s not good enough. You have to strip him of whatever luxuries he have to make a play.When he holds his Triple Threat Position, or while he is  dribbling the ball, you must constantly remind him that the threat is real, that YOU ARE REAL. Remove him from his perceived sense of safety, make him fight to keep the ball, make your existence a deterrence for him from doing anything. Get your hands active, disrupt his space,  jab at the ball, hand check him, get a hand in the passing lanes, take away his space…. make him feel that the possibility of losing the ball is getting greater.

Many people forget to stress on the importance of STAYING LOOSE AND RELAXED (well, this is basketball after all, not Yoga). But, with all seriousness, those two are one of the MOST important factors of a player. The moment muscle tension builds up (be it from fatigue or frustration), you can guarantee yourself to have a bad game ahead. Muscle tension slows down the flow between motion, its emotional equivalent makes you undertake bad decisions. This is why a defender want to pressure you adequately enough —- to make you feel that tension. Once the offensive player feels the “urgency” to get away from the harassment, his body is going to start tensing up; like how a prey freezes up when a predator is nearby. Your defensive assignment will  start “looking” where he wants to pass, or take an ill-advised drive against you, or even pull-up for a jumper under tight coverage. After all, having a missed shot seems better than having the ball ripped by you. Once that happens, his offensive game will become much more sloppy, much more forced. He might start overcompensating his attacks; changing into a lower-percentage lean back runner (to avoid getting blocked), or speeding up his drives (and resulting in a hard layup off the glass), or shooting the ball unnaturally quicker than normal. This makes him a easier defensive assignment, and a less efficient offensive threat —– something which is really, really good news for you!

Always remember that Defense is really a game of heart and confidence. Make your guy think twice about doing anything against you. After all, you ARE going to make him pay for his little mistakes. A good defender should always go up the court feeling like the antagonist, the villain. Look to give the guy you’re guarding a bad day, expose his offensive prowess, make him pay for trying to score on you. Go out and play some D!