There are many situations that will occur during a game where the defence is outnumbered, for example:

  • Defending in “transition” (whether after a turnover, score or a missed shot);
  • After the defence has double teamed a player and the ball has been passed;
  • After a defender has rotated to help a team mate.

The first rule to defending situations of disadvantage is for all players to hustle and move quickly so that the situation of numeric disadvantage exists for only a short period of time. Regardless of whether a player has made a mistake, missed a shot they must quickly move to defend the next play.

The outnumbered defender should attempt to “steal time” from the opponents (to give their team mates sufficient time to recover) and this is best done by putting doubt into the mind of the offensive players. In a situation of numeric disadvantage, one offensive player may be undefended. If the outnumbered defenders can put doubt into the mind of the offensive player about what they are going to do (and who they will defend) that can be sufficient to win the contest.

To put doubt in the mind of the offensive players, an outnumbered defender can:

  • Be active – “hedge” in one direction and then move in another. Keep arms and hands high and moving;
  • Adopt a position on the court (e.g. stand in the passing lane) but be ready to move quickly to another position (e.g. move into the driving lane);
  • Defend the easiest basket – for example, a defender may stay in the key to stop a layup, even if this does allow an open outside shot;
  • Attack the person with the ball – this is often unexpected of the defender, but rather than “hedging” and “retreating” move quickly to defend the person with the ball being as aggressive as possible. If the person passes the ball the opponent may get an open shot, however such pressure can be effective as the player may not make an effective pass;
  • If there are two defenders (e.g. defending 2 against 3 offensive players) one defender may defend the basket while the other pressures the ball.