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Last Shot Situations

Last Shot

End of game situations really become paramount during the end of the season when a single shot can make the difference of winning and losing along with determining a team’s playoff hopes and fate. Therefore, to be successful, teams must be prepare for last shot situations. A last shot situation is not just a simple matter of drawing up a play. There are numerous last shot situations to address dependent on court location and time on the clock.

Basic Principles

When the outcome of the game comes down to a single shot, teams must maintain their poise and confidence. This confidence comes from being prepared.

  • Be sure to get the ball into the hands of your best player, and let them hit the open shot or teammate. Never allow your best player to take the ball out of bounds.

  • Players must read the defense and immediately take advantage of any defensive overplay. The type of defense being deploy will ultimately determine the last shot option. Normally, they will play soft if ahead and must pressure when behind.

  • Non-shooters should be well drilled to go to the offensive boards instead of watching the flight of the ball. Most last second games are won on putbacks not the shot.

  • Keep the play simple and execute. The more complex the action, the greater chance that a breakdown will occur.

  • Practice various last shot scenarios using the game clock. This not only develops proper play timing, spacing and execution, but it also builds players confidence that they can score with just seconds remaining.


Most last second shot plays require long passes. Therefore, players should practice and master the skill of making a skip pass (a crisp, accurate pass from sideline to sideline) along with a baseball or semi-hook pass from the backcourt endline to the opposite free throw line ("Elbow"). If players can not execute either of these passes, any last second shot play becomes worthless.

Players should occasionally practice half court shots. This usually requires developing a two handed shot. With practice some players can become fairly accurate. A shoot around practice before game is a good time to practice half court shots. You can also end practices with a half court shot. Reward the first player to make one. Players love the challenge of trying to make half court shots.

Players should practice tipping the basketball and re-directing a pass (less than second). The ability to tip the ball with both the right and left hand also plays an important role in offensive rebounding. Remember, most last shot games are won on the putback not the shot.

Intentionally missing a free throw

Chances are good during the season that an end of game situation will be encountered that requires the intentionally missing of a free throw; therefore, teams must be prepared for it. Intentional missing a free throw must be taught and practiced. Players must recognize and know what their assignments are on an "intentionally" missed free throw situation. Shooters must not only practice the intentional miss, they also need to be aware of the rule that the ball must hit the rim on the attempt.

Physical Conditioning

Physical conditioning also plays a vital role late in a game. The team that is in better shape will definitely have the advantage in very tense games where players are physically tired, mentally beat, and emotionally drained. Note: normally, you can expect to win at least two games during the season by being in better shape that your opponents.

End of Game Strategies

When Behind Late In Game

The clock is the enemy, not the opponents. Seconds are precious. Every effort should be made to prevent time from running off the clock. By proper use of time outs and fouls the last few minutes of a game can be an eternity so don't ever give up.

  1. Take a charge.

  2. Create a five (5) second violation.

  3. Steal the inbounds pass.

  4. Give a foul.

  5. Rebound aggressively at both ends. Putbacks and second efforts are vital.

  6. Push the ball on offense. Be quick but do not hurry. Make successful passes.

  7. Go strong to the basket. The opposing players usually play poor defense since they do not want to foul.

When Ahead Late In The Game

The clock is your ally. Do not stop it (unless in very serious trouble). Be sure that players know how many timeouts are remaining and if they have a foul(s) to give. Being aware of the timeout and team foul situations can make the difference in winning or losing.

  1. Maintain disruptive pressure without fouling.

  2. Deny dribble penetration. Build cushion staying between your opponent and the basket.

  3. Pressure all three point shots with both hands up high.

  4. Use half court press to defend against fast breaks and slow game tempo.

  5. Box out and rebound. Do not allow any second efforts.

  6. Take care of the ball offensively. Maintain proper spacing and use sharp accurate passes.

  7. Move the ball and do not allow the opponent to stop the clock by fouling.




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