What gameplays do you use to attack a zone defense, and specially 2-1-2 type? And how do you work it in practice?

I usually practice it with game situation, but are there some exercises to develop team level?

I also appreciate if you have videos, articles or book to recommend.


2 Answers 2


There are many ways to attack a zone. This article suggests three strategies:

  1. Play your best ballhandler in the middle (high post)
  2. Attack behind the zone (short corner)
  3. Attack gaps in the zone

Another article has some other suggestions:

  • Attack the weakside

Another strategy is to attack using outside shots (three pointers or long two's), but such this method is only effective if you have several good/accurate long range shooters.

In general, all of these strategies attempt to take advantage of the zone's gaps in defensive coverage. Good ball movement can pull the defenders out of position, leaving your players with a (hopefully) easy, undefended shot.

  • 1
    Combination of quick passing and movement is definitely the key to breaking the zone. Addition to the outside shot strategy: this will only work with slow defenders in top zones. Guys who are quick on their feet will get in your face even when you're on the 3pt line so you'll have to work extra hard to set up an open shot. Feb 9, 2012 at 1:54
  • @DmitrySelitskiy: I don't agree with you, the cure for crushing the zone defense has pretty much always been sinking 3 pt.s. If it works in the top leagues (where you'd expect the guards to be quick) it will work in the lower leagues as well.
    – posdef
    Apr 25, 2012 at 5:51

@JW8 is pretty much on the ball there, I just want to add that good zone will usually employ double teams on critical players. Moving the ball around to find the open player is the best way to tire and frustrate the opponent. If you have a good shooter that's even better. Otherwise having a strong man inside (pivot/center in European/American terms) will facilitate things as he can force his way to the basket, either playing 1-2-1 or pulling in a secondary defender, which in that case he can dish out an assist to the open player.

What might happen is that if there is a designated shooter in the team and it's pretty obvious that you anti-zone offense is built around getting him to shoot long distance, then the defending team might go to a hybrid defense, where they give one quick defender on your shooting guard, and the rest stays on a zone defense. Wouldn't hurt to be prepared for that :)

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