I’ll be the first person to tell you that offense drives matters and wins games in the NBA 2K League. But I’d also be the first to qualify that statement with the follow-up that defense is none the less important.
Playing good defense helps teams win games, and a big part of playing defense involves teamwork and communication. That manifests itself most apparently in defensive rotations, which are a must-nail routine situation for teams. Making the right rotations closes off passing lanes, takes away open shots, and forces the offense to work to gain the upper hand.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of differing complexity and talk about how they work, why they work, and why they’re so important.
The first clip is from the Heat’s win over the Pistons. The Heat have the lead, meaning it’s even more important to limit threes. The Pistons run a play out of horns (really, it’s the Pacers’ play without the high offball screen) that’s designed to have shooters wind up in the corner (point guard Insanity) and at the top of the arc (shooting guard Rux).
The Heat just switch, plain and simple. Dropoff takes Sharpshooterlos’ man Insanity, headed to the corner, while Los stays up top and covers Rux. The animation doesn’t do him any favors, as Rux is able to reverse and penetrate for a bucket, but the Heat take away the primary goal of the play and an open three by switching.
Good, timely passing can make things problematic for the defense. In the above, a standard Adam/Goofy pick-and-roll draws help from the corner, and Goofy makes the pass to the now-open shooter in the corner for three.
But keep watching. The Blazers also run a pick-and-roll, drawing help from the corner onto Walnut down low. But Yey, guarding on the wing, rotates down to the more dangerous shooter in the corner. While it’s debatable whether or not he should have committed so far, what’s inarguable is that Idris’ help delayed Walnut for a crucial moment before he and Adam closed out on the now-open wing shooter.
Let’s wrap up with just a terrific defensive sequence by the Cavs, who beat the Raptors in large part thanks to their defense. Sick defends the pick-and-roll expertly, and both he and SavageDoWerk are able to keep Kenny and subsequently KingQuai in front of them, precluding a shot attempt. The perimeter defenders stay home against good three-point shooters. Then, Sick helps perfectly on Kenny’s cut to the hoop and Hood rotates down to shut off the quick pass to a Quai baseline jumper. Hood’s already sprinting back to his man on the perimeter as Kenny finishes turning around.
One of the defensive positives about locked-in archetypes is that you really can know the entire range of a player’s capabilities. In the last clip, when the Raptors reset, Savage is able to sag off Kenny because the shot-creating slasher cannot shoot threes (or free throws, and that’s about it). That allows him to control the drive and the defensive possession is, consequently, a success.
No matter what type of offense the opponent runs, doing the little things is important. The little things add up to a really, really big thing. There aren’t so many possessions that each and every one isn’t important. Getting a stop is huge—not just mathematically, but in terms of morale and energy—and rotating and communicating are two of the most important tools for that.