It’s the most exciting play in basketball – hitting a gamewinner just as the clock expires. It’s also one of the most difficult, as with everything on the line, the defense will give everything they’ve got.

When should you start your play? When do you want to take the shot? Go to the post? 3-pointer?

Some of these questions have concrete answers, the others are going to depend on your personnel, who’s been playing well, who’s the opponents best defender, and other calls you’ll have to make on your own as a coach.

Box X

Basketball Offense
Box X

If you’ve got a dynamic wing player, with the ability to shoot, drive, and pass the ball, this is the first play I would suggest. It will get that player a great look at a 3-point shot, which they can turn down, and go right into a pick and roll. Meanwhile there is good off-ball movement going on, and there will be plenty of potential passes that they can make.

Have your point guard stand at the top of the key, a couple of feet off the 3-point line. The rest of the players will be in a box formation, standing on the elbows and boxes of the key.

The player you’re running the play for will be lined up on the left block (we’ll call him Jordan from now on), with your best shooter on the opposite side. Your center will stand on the left elbow, and your power forward will be lined up on the right side.

When he’s ready to initiate the play, your point guard will dribble over to the right wing, about foul line extended. When your shooter sees the point guard move, he will sprint up and set a back screen for the center, who will then dive across the lane, looking for an easy bucket.

If that isn’t there the shooter will set a second screen, this time for Jordan. The power forward will make this a stagger screen, setting another pick a little bit closer to the three point line. Jordan will run up off both screens ready to catch and shoot at the top of the key.

If Jordan doesn’t like the 3-point shot, the power forward will turn around and set a pick on his man. In the meantime, the shooter will slip out to the arc, and look to catch the ball as Jordan runs the pick and roll.

Coaching Tips

  • If you are down, take the shot earlier, with at least 3-4 seconds, so that you have a shot at an offensive rebound and a putback
  • If the game is tied, ideally you’ll take the shot with 1-2 seconds up on the clock, and the horn will sound
  • Your point guard should initiate the play somewhere between 8-10 seconds to go, this will give you just enough time to go through all your options
  • If you’d rather just isolate Jordan at the top, you can have your power forward set a screen for the shooter, giving him more room at the top of the key to operate

If you need some more information on the last part of the play, make sure to check out this pick and roll basketball article!