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Are YOU Prepared for End of Game Situations?

Everything that happens at the end of the game: baskets, turnovers, fouls, have the same point impact as every other possession of the game.  The difference is that end of game situations are magnified.  


There is much, much more emotion from the crowd, the players, the coaches, even the officials.  When emotion is involved, focus, communication, and execution all suffer.  And, the limited game time remaining gives you have less time to overcome mistakes and miscommunication.

The key is to coach EVERY POSSESSION OF EVERY GAME like it is the end of game.

Here are some strategies and important End of Game Situations to prepare for and to implement throughout an entire game.

How to Decide When to Start Your Catch Up Mode

Ed Schilling

A study of 10,000 games at all levels found that in 96% of the games you can determine when you need to start your catch-up game–that is taking quicker shots, trapping, playing more pressure, picking up full court, or fouling to stop the clock, by using this formula:

  1. Round the time up to the next minute.
  2. Double the number of minutes.
  3. Add one point to the double number of minutes remaining.  These are now the points differential.

Have an assistant coach do this quick math when the other team has possession.

Here is an example: Your opponent has the ball and there is 1:43 remaining in the game.

  1. Round up to the next minute  (1:43 rounds to 2 minutes).
  2. Double 2 minutes, so it becomes 4 points.
  3. Add one point to make 5 points.
  4. If the other team has the ball and you are behind by five or more points, then you must play in your catch up mode.

The conclusion is that if you are on defense with 1:43 remaining in the game, then you need to implement your catch-up offense and defense.


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Teams Who are BEST at EOG Situations

Mike Neighbors

The best EOG situations teams are teams that treat every single possession with the same respect as the very last ones of the game. These teams appear to be oblivious to end of game distractions and repeatedly execute game winning situations when the pressure is the greatest.


They display a composure that others don’t. Their coach has a control that others don’t. Their players demeanor is consistent. They are in character. As a result THEY WIN more than they LOSE!! 

What to Prepare for

  • Practice End of Game Situations and have a manager or assistant coach run your scoreboard like a game, with bonus, and possession indicated.  Practice without key players who could be out on fouls in the game.


  • Are you going to foul on the floor ahead by three points? Does it depend on the time left? Is that time 8 seconds? Is that time 5 seconds?


  • When you need a quick score, are you going to get the ball in your best players hands or use that player as a decoy for option #2?


  • What is the amount of time you want your players to know when you will take a quick two point shot then foul if down three?


  • Are you going to miss a FT on purpose with a lead to force opponent who is out of time outs to rebound and hit a last second shot?

    Here is a really good article on how to miss a free throw on purpose

  • Are you going to run plays that your players already know or draw something up Either way, practice end of game timeouts and huddles so that your players will be prepared for the game.

  • Are you a go with the stats coach? Are you a go with your gut coach? Are you depends-on-the-situation coach?

  • Are you going to switch all screens for end of game defense? Stay on and play 1-on-1 defense?

  • Will you trap a ball screen and rotate?

  • Will you change defenses out of the time-out?

  • Will you show one defense then play another?

  • When defending a full court inbound play, will you put a big player on the inbounds passer or play a centerfielder?

  • What other situations have you seen that you want to have a plan of attack for?

  • Will you save special plays for the end of the game that your opponent hasn’t seen?Will you run your best plays?  Will you run special counters to your plays after the defense has seen them?

  • How much practice time will you spend on end of game situations?

    (Practicing special situations is more mental than physical, so it is a good activity for end of season practices when players are physically tired.  It also provides some daily variety to keep things mentally fresh)

More on End of Game Situations

Find out in practice:

  • Who can throw the ball the length of the floor with accuracy.  
  • Who can dribble the length of the floor in four or five seconds.  
  • Who can get a one on one basket in specific amounts of time 4 seconds, 5 seconds, etc…
  • Who can throw a lob pass to the front of the rim.
  • Who can just inbound the ball safely.

Will you substitute a “good hands team” when you have to inbound the ball safely and will probably get fouled?

Will you substitute players to foul when trailing so that your starters do not pick up more fouls?

Practice End of Game Keep Away to work on not allowing a team to foul a ball handler.

Each second gives you a chance to execute one of the following:  Dribble, Pass, Shot.  If there are 2 seconds, you can dribble and shoot or pass and shoot.  If you try to dribble twice and shoot, or pass, dribble, and shoot, there is not enough time.

In the huddles and in all end of game communication with your team, HOW you say what you are going to say is just as (if not more so) important as WHAT you say!!! Your demeanor and your tone will impact how your team will perform.

Are you talking to them in the same manner as throughout the rest of the game?  Are you on the same spot on the floor as you normally are for timeouts?  Are you using a wipe board or not?

Are your assistants calm and poised at the end of the game?

Do you have an assistant responsible for knowing the number of fouls on each team, on specific individual players (both teams) and for who has the possession arrow?

Regardless of what you have thought out and believe, the key to all of these ideas is to teach and practice the execution so that everyone is clear what you will do when the pressure of the game is at its highest.

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