Insider Tips for Beating 2-1-2 Zone Defense

In this week’s team concepts feature, we take offensive principles learned in previous zone features and put them all together to successfully attack the 2-1-2 defense. With his Duke men’s basketball team on hand to simulate key coaching points, coach Mike Krzyzewski emphasizes perimeter techniques, options for bigs, and much more.

Meanwhile, check out our previous articles featuring Coach K talking about how to beat zone defenses, including “Five Essential Principles for Attacking the Zone” and “Dynamic Drills to Beat Zone Defense: Box Drill and Bigs Shooting.”

Part I: Perimeter Play and Passing Inside

The action begins 5-on-5, with the offense going against a 2-1-2 defense in a half-court setting. First, it’s key for perimeter players to remember to use pass fakes and misdirection against the zone. Don’t be predictable. Perimeter guys must be ready to shoot at all times as well.

Meanwhile, a shot against the zone is also like a pass inside, so when you take those shots, the opposite wing should crash the boards. The goal is that you want three guys on the boards against the zone.

Next, look to put in a restriction about shooting. The reason is that against a zone you often don’t pass into the post unless you think there’s a chance for a shot. Therefore, don’t take a shot unless the post player touches the ball. As a result, instead of the zone just going out, it had to go in and out. That creates more stress on the defense. That’s why you must hit the middle as well. The result: Pass to the post to move the zone and create opportunities.

Zone Tip: Work the zone to create overloads and then exploit the defense.


Part II: Four Perimeter Players

Next, put a man on the foul line and then look for angle penetration. Also, take advantage of a fourth perimeter guy and an overloaded defense.

Remember, every time we hit the post, something good happens, so look to hit the post as much as you can. Call for the ball so your teammates know that you are flashing.


The previous clips can all be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball – Attacking the Zone.” To check out more videos featuring zone principles, click here

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