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How to: Utilize Balance and Momentum


Keeping the defense on their toes


NBA highlight reels are full of athleticism and power, as players showcase their supreme physical gifts and soar above the rim. However, we sometimes witness crafty players who are able to manipulate their defenders into reaching or making mistakes, allowing them to score on uncontested lay-ups. Kyrie Irving and Steve Nash are masters of misdirection, using balance and momentum to goad the defense into lapses. Here are some situations in which these can be utilized.


Attacking closeouts: In closeout situations, the defenders will usually play you for the outside shot, as they may be too late for the challenge. In doing so, most defenders will not play you straight up, instead leaning towards your dominant hand in an attempt to reach the ball. As they leap out at you, this is a perfect opportunity for a fake, be it a pump fake or a drive in the opposite direction. A defender who has overplayed you is liable to reach and overreact to fakes.


Transition: Transition baskets do not have to be about speed or jumping ability. As the defender is often backpedaling and thus unable to shuffle their feet effectively, you can utilize changes in speed or direction to keep him or her off-balance. The defender can only move after you make your move, making this an ideal situation to prevent them from getting into a solid defensive stance.


‘Resetting’ the ball: Instead of rushing into a quick drive, you will often see guards pulling the ball back out for a better option. The space allows you to run at your defender at a faster pace, and the defender is often forced to go low to absorb the increased impact. This is a chance for you to pull up for the outside shot before your defender can react, and you can exploit this further by using a hesitation move to fake the pull-up before blowing by your man.


Screens: Crafty point guards will sometimes not drive towards the basket after using a screen to get past their defender. Instead, they will slow down to allow the defender to catch up and use their backs to absorb contact before driving or taking the shot. This allows them to maintain their balance and to draw fouls as well.