The match-up zone defense is based on rules and goals. Each of these aspects must be clear, understandable, and approachable for the player. This is a tactical defense, one that combines portions of man-to-man defense with zone defense principles.
To successfully run this defense, you must first consider the quick defensive recovery as a main setting for this kind of zone. This is very important, because you give the offense only a few seconds of offensive play by forcing them to attack against lined up defense. We must prevent the attack reads and trying to make the offense not understand which type of defense we are going to use. It is very important that the defense closes the passing lanes. This will disrupt the ability of the offense to do what they want, when they want, thereby breaking their offensive rhythm. The aggressiveness on defense directed towards their playmaker is essential in helping us achieve this goal. In this way, the playmaker is usually forced to 1-on-5 play. It is critical that every defensive player stay man-to-man in his own zone on the court, while leaving the protection of the painted area to the center, 5. If you want to use this defense, you have to work on the defensive skills of each player, and then focus attention on the ability of the team to work together defensively. One of these important defensive skills is the slide to the basket or to the ball.
To properly execute the match-up defense, there are several important rules that need to be followed.
- You have to stay with your man or else change your assignment if your player cuts towards the ball or towards the basket.
- Is necessary to observe the opponents’ game plan, because it’s very important to execute a lot of tactical adaptations.
- Each defensive player must have an offensive player to defend against in his own defensive area. If there aren’t players in this area, the defensive player will go into the paint area. If the offensive player with the ball goes inside the paint area, the defensive player must do his best to keep his opponent from scoring. However, if there is a pass between the offensive player and the ball, the defensive player must anticipate him in open position. If the pass between the offensive player and the ball are two or he is on the same side of the ball, the main thing to do is to stay in the lane with both feet.
I will now focus on the defensive attitude of the perimeter players. One thing that our perimeter players must always do is follow and press the offensive player, who is dribbling. The defender, who is defending the man with the ball, must keep him from penetrating to the basket. The defensive player will do this by guarding the area between the offensive player and the painted area (diagr. 1). If the player with the ball tries to go to one side of the court, the defensive player on that side must pick up the player (diagr. 2).
If the player with the ball tries to dribble towards an empty corner (diagr. 3), the defensive player must follow him. However, if the player dribbles towards the “full” corner (occupied by a teammate) and there is a possible cut on the opposite side of the player positioned in that zone of the court, we follow both the man with the ball and the player, who cut (diagr. 4 and 5).
In case of dribble from the guard position towards the corner, instead, we will make an adjustment and we will change the guard on all the cuts done from the low positions to the top positions. All of the high or low cuts, which are done out of the area, will be climbed towards the ball, it means slide diagonally towards the ball/basket (diagr. 6).
The most important thing for each defensive player to do is to communicate with teammates. For example, if there is a cut inside, the player yells, “CUT!” If the defensive player stays with his man, he yells out, “STAY!” In addition, if a defensive player wants to switch defensive assignments, he yells “CHANGE!”
The internal players collaborate with each other and protect the low-post and post-up areas. They must cover the passing line (diagr. 7, 8, 9, and 10) and anticipate the cut of the post when he goes towards the ball (diagr. 11). When you are running a match- up defense, you must consider some basic movements. These movements are usually performed by following the game situation development.
If the opposing player with the ball is moving, it will be necessary that the defensive player X1 follow the man with the ball, while X2 goes to cover in the corner (diagr. 12).
Other important displacements to consider occur after the player’s pass. In this case, there are two situations to consider:
- If there is a pass and a cut towards the basket, it is very important to follow the player who is cutting (diagr. 13 and 14).
- If there is a pass and a cut on the same side of the court (diagr. 15) or if there is a pass and cut on the opposite side of the court, it is necessary to rotate (diagr. 16 and 17).
After a pass in the corner, the defender has to anticipate the possible cut away from the ball until the change of guard with X3 on the opposite side (diagr. 18 and 19).
The defensive player X4 will follow the cut until he changes his position with X3. This happens if the pass comes from the corner to the player on the wing side (diagr. 20 and 21). In a “skip” pass situation (a side-to-side pass), the defender, who will attack the ball will be always the last defender X4 (diagr. 22 and 23). The defense must try to move contemporaneously with the opponents' movements. For instance, when there is a pass between the playmaker, 1, and the guard, and then the cut of 1 and also another cut from the low post on the opposite side to the high post (diagr. 24 and 25). Or, when after the same pass, we have a cut from the high post to the low post on the ball side and from the low post on the weak side to the high post, on the ball side (diagr. 26 and 27).
With a pass from 2 to 3 and the cuts of 1 and 5, while the defender X1 will follow the cut on the baseline, X4 will follow/anticipate the center from the low to the high post position (diagr. 28 and 29). In the situation previously described, the ability of the defenders is very important specially while they must change their own opposite players in the same positions (diagr 30).
In the case of the cut of 4, with the ball in the hands of the low post, X2 will try to anticipate the cut, while X4 will ascend, because the cut will be on the opposite side of the ball. X1 will occupy the X2’s position and X2 will occupy the X1’s spot (diagr. 31, 32, and 33). Is very important to follow the 1’s cut towards basket and, when the ball comes from 4 to 2, it will be necessary a X1 and X3’s change (diagr. 34, 35, and 36).
After having analyzed the several options and the match-up defense rules and objectives, we could consider that this defense assets could be more evident if the opposite players will haven’t lot of talent. It will be very important to run the practice by considering different situations.
First, from the middle of the court, and after by using all the recover from the breakaway.
If you want to use the match-up zone as base for the other defense options, then will be necessary to work everyday on this defense rules and options by improving the game executions every day.