30 second time outs

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cross-Matching on Defense as an Offensive Strategy

How many times before a game do you hear a coach or a player say, "take the guy who has you"? This happens more often in situations when no scouting is possible prior to the game to determine more appropriate matchups. So, generally, they guard someone of similar size, the point guard takes the point guard, the off-guard takes the off-guard, and so on...and vice-versa.

This NBA Playoff season I heard more about "cross-matching" than I had ever before. "Cross-matching" is when defensive players on one team are guarding different players than are guarding them at the other end. During the Lakers/Celtics NBA Championship Series it happened often when Kobe Bryant would guard Rajon Rondo at one end, but at the other end Paul Pierce or Ray Allen were the preferred matchup on Bryant. This also would occur more often in situations where teams would switch screens and complete a possession with different matchups than where they started.

That's where the problem, or advantage, may begin. Many coaches feel that cross-matching may effect their transition defense due to the difficulties of finding your matchup, and that may be true depending on your method of transition defense. I've addressed a method of Transition D in an earlier post that may not be effected by cross-matching quite so much.

However, for teams that want to push the tempo, it may be possible to create pace by forcing some cross-matching opportunities. In contests where one team clearly would prefer to walk the ball up the floor and set their offense, the faster paced team might tempt them into a quicker pace by cross-matching. At worst. if the opponent sticks to their strengths and slows the game down, then finding their man and transition defense won't be a problem anyway. On the other hand, when running your fast break, the cross-matching now might make it difficult for your opponent to matchup with you. This might create quick mismatches at one end and allow teams to get some transition baskets or get some early offense opportunities that might not otherwise be available.

I, personally, wouldn't use cross-matching if it weakened me substantially at the defensive end.But if it doesn't make much of a difference, I certainly would give it a look to help me at the offensive end.

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