A geek’s guide to Basketball

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Basketball, like any game, contains a varied number of tactics so that one team wins the game - meaning both offensive and defensive tactics are designed to accomplish specific goals, and each player is responsible for performing individual actions.

Basketball is where two opposing teams seek to outscore each other by shooting the ball into the basket. A basket could be worth 1, 2, or 3 points. The team with more points than the other at the end of the time permitted wins the game.

Basketball has four quarters consisting of 10 minutes each (after each quarter a short break is taken). Should the two teams score the same amount of points, there is an additional five-minute "overtime" to determine who can score additional points. More "overtime" can be played until finally, one team scores more points and wins the game.

Basketball team positions

Villanova Wildcats guard Jalen Brunson (1) in action during the Men's College Basketball Big East Tournament Semifinal Game

Point guard - responsible for leading the team's offensive plays, dribbling the ball out of defence and across the court, passing the ball to a player to shoot at the basket. Typically, point guards are smaller, yet faster players on the court with exceptional ball-handling skills.

Shooting guard - shooting guards generally are a little slower and a bit. Their goal is to take far-distance shots with the aim of scoring 3-pointers.

Small forward - the teams most versatile player, small forwards assist in scoring in collecting rebounds. They are also typically taller than both point and shooting guards.

Power forward - is usually one of the most influential players who play inside the 3-point line, receiving rebounds and score in the opposing team's basket.

Centre - is usually the tallest player on the team, scoring close to the basket, blocking shots defensively and rebounds. Centres are the player who begins the game with the tip-off.

Basketball offence tactics

A good offence must be resilient enough to react to changes in defensive strategy. Each player must ensure there is a certain amount of spacing between them yet be careful to avoid defensive traps.

Lamonte Turner (1) of the Tennessee Volunteers drives to the basket during the NCAA Div I Men's Championship

Early offences respond quickly to circumstances as they occur. Once a player from one team receives the ball, they look to move the ball up the court. The players without the ball respond by widening their presence around the court, creating lanes for where the player with the ball can move or pass to. Movement down the court should be rapid and fast, looking to score a basket at every opportunity.

When the defence is spread out across the court, it makes it tricky for a zone defence to arrange as the team drive to the hoop. Further man-to-man defence strategies can then be employed, allowing the team’s best players to break down the defence on an individual level.

Whether one team's offensive strategies do not get close to the basket, they can help the attacking team to get into better positions so that they can set up further attacks.

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Basketball defence tactics

Defensively, there are several options a team can deploy in basketball. The goal of the defence is simple: disrupt and break up the offensive plays in any way.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' Larry Nance Jr., top, flies over the Indiana Pacers defense for a bucket

In the modern game, to have a successful basketball defence, there are three ways which teams can employ:

  1. Cause the attacking player to miss their shot, creating an opportunity for a rebound that can be collected by the defence to begin an attack.
  2. Disrupt the attacking team's offensive play in a way that ball turnover occurs, again permitting the defence to transition into an attacking play.
  3. Stalling the offensive play to the point where they are unable to pass the ball for 5 seconds or cannot take a valid shot within the shot clock period.

Furthermore, each defensive strategy can be categorised three ways, each with their own pros and cons to consider:

Zone Defence Zonal defence is where each player is responsible for defensively covering a 'zone.' For example, in the standard 2-3 zone, for example, two players are situated at the top of the key, guarding against any attacking player that ventures into their area.

Concurrently, the teams remaining three players will position themselves along the baseline, guarding against the opposing team's attacking plays.

Person-to-Person Defence Also known as 'man' defence, this defence aims to match a specific defender to one particular attacking player. (Known as man-to-man marking in football).

Each player marks their assigned player throughout the game because the matches are made against a similar player by their ability and size.

Hybrid Defence This defensive tactic incorporates elements of the other two defence tactics simultaneously. A classic example of this tactic is where four players will take up assigned spots on the floor to guard a specific zone (zonal defence) with the other remaining team player guarding one offensive player from the opposing team at all times.

This defensive tactic is employed when one player on the opposing team is particularly exceptional at offence compared to their teammates.

Basketball terms and principal player actions

Like any game, there are specific jargon and terms you'll need to learn to better understand the match being played. Here is a selection of the most common:

Texas Tech center Norense Odiase (32) shoots a free throw during an Elite Eight matchup between the Villanova Wildcats and the Texas Tech Red Raiders

Air Ball When the ball has failed to make contact with either the net, rim or backboard once a shot has been taken.

Assist Similar to football, when the player who assisted in a goal-scoring opportunity. The same with basketball, when an attacking player passes the ball to another and who immediately scores a basket.

Backboard The rectangular piece of glass behind the basket is known as the backboard. The inner, coloured square, above the basket rim, is placed there to aid attacking players to judge their shots.

Block A defensive action when a defending player stops a shot occurring from an attacking player.

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Boxing Out Is where defensive players use their body position to block offensive players from obtaining the ball after a rebound shot.

Double Team Where two defensive players are guarding one and the same player on the opposing team.

Fast Break A fast break is when after a defensive stop, the defence quickly turns to offence and the player concerned creates a quick break by passing to another teammate down the court, where there are either none or a few defenders in the way.

Foul Like most sports, a foul is where a player has broken the game rules. In basketball, when a foul is committed in the act of shooting, then the player fouled is permitted to take free throws from the foul line.

Baskets not made whilst being fouled will add up to the number of free throws that a made shot would have likely scored. Meaning a 3-pointer would be given an additional free throw, getting 4 points instead.

Foul Line The line where free throws are taken from.

Rebound When a shot is made but missed, and the ball bounces back into play - this is known as a rebound. A player who collects the ball first is given credit for the rebound.

Travelling Players are only permitted to take two steps while in possession of a held ball, any more they will be in violation of the rules.

Turnover Turnover is where the attacking team for some, reason, loses the ball to the defence.

With this geeks guide to basketball, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first basketball match. There is more to basketball than in this article, but if you master these basics you’ll be able to follow this tactical and fast court game.

Words: David Bailey-Lauring

Images: PA

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