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Coaching Tips

The Advantages of a Smaller Lineup

Size is a factor in basketball that can regularly give a team advantage over its opponent.  However, smaller teams can use speed, quickness, athleticism and decisiveness to gain advantage over an opponent. Teams may employ a smaller lineup when they want to change the way the game is being played and increase its pace.

Fast Break Offence


A team that feels it has an advantage in speed and quickness may want to go to a smaller lineup to get its fast-break offense going.  Once you gain control of the ball, smaller and faster players have the ability to get to the outside portions of the court and zip by bigger opponents. The larger players can’t stay with smaller faster players in all-out running situations, and that creates scoring chances for the smaller lineup.

Defensive Opportunity

A smaller lineup that boasts quickness and alertness can wreak havoc for the opposing offence.  Smaller and quicker players have the ability to get in the passing lanes and steal the ball.  Instead of making the routine pass that sets up the open outside jumper or the layup, every pass is contested.  The offense becomes fatigued, and the defence gets opportunities to take the ball away from the opponent.

Double-Teaming a “star”

A small lineup allows a defence to double-team the opponent’s star. The Miami Heat used this strategy in the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference finals to stop Chicago Bull star Derrick Rose from dominating. After losing the opening game of the series, the Heat reeled off four straight wins and took the series. In Game 2, the Bulls were held to a 72-point effort and never figured out how to deal with Miami’s smaller lineup.

Open Jump Shots

A foot or two of open space on the basketball court can result in a good shot for a competitive basketball player.  However, with a smaller lineup that can beat its opponent down the court and find open spaces, a foot or two can become 3 or 4 feet.  Contested shots become open shots, and open shots become wide open shots.

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