This often means that the team will change defensive tactics (e.g. trapping players, changing from zone to man to man). Hopefully, the team is able to get consecutive “stops” and score themselves.

The shot clock was introduced to stop an opponent that has a lead from simply passing the ball without attempting to score. However, when trying to catch up, a team needs to be conscious of how much time remains in the game and they may need to quicken the tempo of the game to increase the number of possessions that they have.

Once a team has 4 team fouls in a quarter, any additional foul (that is not an offensive foul) results in the opponent having two free throws whether or not they were in the “act of shooting” when fouled. The team may strategically foul the opponent to:

  • Reduce the time taken by the opponent’s offence (it can be 1 or 2 seconds rather than 24);
  • Have opponents that are poor free throw shooters take shots, rather than the higher percentage shooters.

In adopting this strategy, teams must:

  • Avoid either an unsportsmanlike or technical foul, as either will result in the opponent having free throws and then getting another possession. Some examples of an automatic unsportsmanlike foul are:
    • fouling a player before an inbound pass is made (e.g. holding onto a player and not allowing them to cut);
    • fouling a player on a “fast break” when they are the last defender and do not attempt to defend the ball.
  • Foul quickly as there is little point in defending for 20 seconds and then attempting to foul (at this stage the team should continue to force a bad shot). Often teams will initially attempt to intercept a pass and if unsuccessful then foul;
  • Be aware of who is a good free throw shooter and try to deny them the ball and then foul players that are not as good. The offence will usually attempt to have the ball in the hands of their best free throw shooters and the defence may need to foul a good shooter to stop too much time being taken;
  • Consider which of their players will foul. It is better for a player that is not one of the team’s scorers to foul. Some coaches will substitute their scorers out of the game to avoid playing defence, and then substitute them back into the game to play offence;
  • Execute their own offence efficiently and as quickly as possible. They must still score to catch up.

A team may also use the strategy when they are ahead. For example, if a team is 3 points up on the last possession they may prefer to foul (giving the opponent 2 free throws) rather than allow them to take a 3 point shot to win the game.

This tactic can also be used prior to the last possession and will often result in both teams taking a succession of free throws with only a few seconds coming off the clock each time. If the team that is ahead is able to make their free throws they will obviously win, however any missed shots provide an opportunity for the opponent to catch up.