Improving your game in the mismatch

We had a league game earlier this week against a team that beat us earlier in the season. The team pretty much revolved around 2 players: one guy had sick handles and could finish off the drive, the other guy had a soft touch around the rim and was killing us down low. The two guys contributed to more than 75% of their team’s points. The other guys on the team would simply set up picks for these two guys or pass them the ball whenever they got in trouble.

I had the chance to guard both of the guys on defense, and at 6’4″ I was clearly slower than the guard (5’9″) and the forward (6’0″). I knew it was going to be a pain in the ass to guard them, but after being in the game a minute or two, this is what I found out:

  • I hustled a shit ton more. No one likes being beat, and when I play against quicker guards/forwards I lower my stance, get a wider base, and am just more into the game. I simply over-compensate for the fact that I know I would get beat in a foot race, and it forces me to play faster and be more attentive.
  • I become more aware of passing lanes. Since guards are usually distributing the ball more, I use my peripheral vision more to see where all the players are moving and it has resulted in steals and easy rebounds since I get a general idea of where the ball is going and when the shot is going off. If you think about the average guard and how he passes, there are some pretty consistent patterns to how the passes are made and who they go to. Once you pick up on those patterns (lob passes to post players, quick cross court passes to cutting players, wrap around passes when you’re up against your man), you almost feel like you’re playing outside the game watching all the players move around like in a chess match.
  • Fighting hard through screens. Players still set screens on me like I’m a little guard, but one of their forwards tried to set a blindside screen and I knocked him on his ass fighting through the screen. While this isn’t really what basketball is about, it is fun to be able to just knock someone over and never seeing them set a screen on you again. Granted, this has caused some fights in the past but it’s a lesson for all those guards out there, never set a screen on a big man.

Over the last year, I have developed more guard/forward skills and getting away from playing the PF/C position all the time. Making this switch mentally has opened up a whole new game for me in terms of ball handling, passing, and playmaking. I actually enjoy playing guards because I see how I get broken down on defense, and this is exactly the type of experience I need to break down other players in the open court when I have the ball.

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