Every day that I’ve been a head coach, for 13 years, we’ve practiced time and score in some fashion. Every day. I’ve always felt like if you weren’t practicing time and score every day you weren’t fully preparing your team to win games. Here are some different ways we practiced time and score.
Game to 6
Set the clock to 2:30 with a tie score of 60-60. Make adjustments to team fouls as you wish – a great way to get your team used to playing with fouls to give. Start with a jump ball and play a live scrimmage with the clock remaining at 2:30. When someone scores 6 points and reaches 66, the clock starts. Play the scrimmage live from that point.
This is a great way to get your kids used to adjusting on the fly. They don’t know what the score will be when the clock starts, and they have to adjust to the swings in momentum that take place late in games. You can play with the numbers as well. Make it a game to 4 with 1:30 on the clock. Give the team who has won more drills in practice a 2-point lead to start the drill. A game to 6 – in some form – will force your kids to deal with different and unexpected time and score scenarios.
Sprint and Score
Line the entire team up on the baseline and put 20 seconds on the clock, with the score tied at 60. On your whistle, everyone is going to sprint down and back, finishing through the foul line on the side they started at. Once they finish at the foul line, bounce the ball out towards half court and start the clock. The two teams have to gather themselves, get organized, and execute on both sides of the ball with the clock running down. 20 seconds generally gives them plenty of time to get settled and still execute a play in a tie game.
This is a great drill for conditioning and mental toughness. It forces your kids to think, communicate and execute when they are tired. You can start by giving them the scenario ahead of time – white ball, tie game, you are running pistol, blue you are in fist defense, etc… After they get used to it, call out the scenario as they are running, or even after you’ve bounced the ball into play. Don’t tell them ahead of time who is on offense or who is on defense. Don’t tell them what to run, let them figure it out with the clock running down. Change the score on the board as they are running, and tell them they’ll have to look at it and figure out the situation.
I wouldn’t get too complicated with how much you switch things up, but putting them in situations where they are tired and have to figure it out on their own will set them up for success late in close games.
One other thing – the entire team is running. So not everyone will be on the court. This forces your team to communicate – often while they are running – about who is in the game and who is out of the game. They’ll start to communicate about what they want to run and who they are guarding as well. It’s a great way to demand game-like communication.
Put 30 seconds on the clock and give the defense a 1-point lead. It’s a simple one-stop-we-win scenario. The offense can execute whatever they want. The defense has to play a perfect possession for 30 seconds, meaning they can’t make a mistake. If they don’t pressure the ball the way you want, blow the whistle, they run, the play starts over. If they get hit on a screen, don’t front the post, someone isn’t communicating, again, they lose. Have your coaches grind out everything that you emphasize defensive for 30 seconds.
If the offense shoots the ball and the defense gets the rebound, the clock stops, the ball gets checked up, and you start the possession again with the clock remaining where it is. They have to keep getting stops, playing the possession perfectly, for the entire :30 seconds. This will put them in the right mindset when you need one stop to get a win.
Pick a late-game scenario – tie game, 1:00 to play, whatever you like, but something that is even. Play it live, with only one rule – no talking. No one is allowed to say a word. Ever play on the road in a packed gym where you can hardly hear yourself think? This is an extreme version of that. Players have to figure out how to communicate without talking to one another, and get on the same page. Eventually they should be able to look at the board, understand the situation and know exactly what it is you want to do.
This will also emphasize the importance of communication, so once your players are allowed to communicate again they realize how valuable it is. You can do this with the players, and then do it with your coaches. Allow the players to speak, but don’t let any coaches say anything. So much of effective time and score play in games comes down to the players figuring it out for themselves.
1 and 1
Put :30 seconds on the clock and give one of your teams a choice – you can either be down 1 on the free throw line shooting a 1 and 1, or you can be up 1 on the free throw line shooting a 1 and 1. Let them decide who they want to be. You can determine the shooter, you can let them determine the shooter, or you can tell them the opponent is going to determine their shooter. What scenario do you think they’d choose?
The 1 and 1 forces them to think about multiple scenarios late in a game. They come out of the huddle and they could be tied, up one or down one when the ball comes back into play. Adjust the time as you see fit. Put it at :45 to go and create a possible 2 for 1 scenario. Or give one team 3 free throws when they are down by 2. Adjust the clock and scenario as you see fit, but give them the option to choose and make sure it’s a scenario where the lead can change hands before the ball is put in play.
BOB 7 Game Series
I never feel like we practice BOB situations enough. Put a small amount of time on the clock – 3 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds. Play a 7-game series, alternating offense and defense. So give one team the choice of choosing offense or defense first – so they’ll play on that side of the ball 4 times. You can adjust the time throughout the series. Adjust the score as well – offense is down 1, down 2, tied – just make sure it is balanced for both team. The first team to win 4 possessions win the series.
You can do the same with different scenarios moving up the floor. 94 feet, 10 seconds to go. 3/4 court with 7 seconds left. Include side OB. In between sets, you can give one player on offense a free throw to earn an extra second, or lose a second, on the clock. Move it up the floor with 7 different situations.
6 On The Floor
Struggling against pressure or finishing out games when you have a lead? Give your starters a lead with a minute or two to go, and give the other team a free throw. Insert a 6th player on defense, as soon as the free throw goes up, to simply go after the ball. He can only play defense in the front court, once they break the pressure pull him off (unless you want to work on scramble situations in the 1/2 court against a run and jump, then just leave him out there). Put your team in extremely difficult, unfair situations and force them to come through. Pressure in a game won’t seem so bad.
Last Night’s Game
Take the exact time and score scenario from the last game you played, and play it out again. If you blew an 8-point lead with 3:00 to play, put the exact time and score up on the board and do it again. If one of your players missed key free throws late in the game, put him out there in the same situation. If you struggled and lost, just make sure you soften the tone. Teach, don’t criticize. Let them talk through to you what they were thinking when they made the decisions they made. Give them confidence that even f you can’t turn the situation into a win, that they know exactly what should be done the next time.
There are a million different time and score scenarios that can present themselves over a season. Use the ones that you are in as a team to get better.
In any scenario you give them, tell them that every player has 4 fouls. How important is it to get a stop late in games, playing great defense without fouling? But I don’t think we practice that scenario very often. Anyone who commits a foul has to sub out and run a sprint. You also want your starters to get comfortable being themselves and playing hard, even though they have 4 fouls. And when the possession changes, and we are losing, are we fouling here? Even if I have 4? It’s a great way to get individual players and your team comfortable playing with foul trouble.
Know The Board
At any point during any time and score scenario, blow the whistle and tell everyone on your team to look directly at you. Ask them what the score is. Or how many team fouls they have. Or who has the possession arrow. Or how much time is on the clock. Do it right after someone has just subbed into the game. Train them to know everything that is on the scoreboard. All of the information they need to know is right in front of them – but they need to know it. If they look up at the board after you call on them, put them on the line.
You cannot win close games by holding your kids hands and walking them through every possession. They have to be trained to do it, and a lot goes into it, which is why I think you need to practice time and score every day.