How to Break a 2-2-1 Press


At the end of a tight basketball game, your opponent may try for a steal with a full-court press. You may also see a press throughout the game as the opposition attempts to take you out of your offensive rhythm. Typically, a press is beaten along the sidelines. But, to counteract this press break, the opponent may employ a zone press, such as the 2-2-1, that blocks the sidelines. In this case, beat the press up the middle of the court.

Outside In

  • Line up with two guards at the elbows of the key and one forward on each of the sidelines closer to half-court.

  • Inbound the ball to a forward who has cut back toward the end line to receive the pass.

  • As the defense converges, pass the ball to a guard who has cut up the middle of the court and beat the press.

  • Have that guard dribble the ball as far as possible toward the mid-court line. When approached by defenders, he'll have an opening to pass the ball to the other forward who has moved up the opposite sideline, beyond half-court.

Inbound to a Guard

  • In the same formation, inbound the ball to one of the nearby guards, who has received a screen from the other guard.

  • With the two guards and inbound passer now in a triangle, have the ballhandler look up the court to find a forward cutting from the weak side (opposite side of the ball) to the center of the court.

  • Pass the ball to that forward. He will dribble up the middle and into the front court, breaking the press.

  • If the cutting forward is covered, have the guard swing the ball back to the original inbound passer, who will pass the ball to the guard on other side of the floor.

  • Look for the other forward cutting to the middle of the floor. Pass it to him or swing it back to the other side until a forward becomes available to beat the press.

Tips & Warnings

  • Start by practicing these plays with no defenders. The offense will see the passes and movements more clearly. Once they have a grasp of the play, incorporate the defenders in a 2-2-1 zone press formation.
  • If a defense starts pressing, get your best ball-handlers into the game. When beating the press, every player may need to become involved in dribbling or passing the ball.
  • Make sure your players stay calm. The pressure of a 2-2-1 press can cause panic, and panicked players tend to turn the ball over.
  • Instruct players to keep their dribble alive as long as possible. Problems come into play when players pick up their dribble and become trapped by multiple defenders.
  • Be aware of how many seconds you have to cross half-court. Many leagues have a 10-second limit.

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  • Photo Credit Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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