page id: 353 Shooting the Gap

Gap ( Basketball )

Basketball  (external link) offensive terminology: " Step into seams in zone ! ".

Synonyms: shoot the gap ~ under

Explanation: shooting the gap as a term covers all manner of going underneath off-ball screens. More commonly, however, shooting the gap refers to when a defender tries to slip underneath with the intention of jumping the passing lane.

Instead of being on top of his man at the moment of the catch, he momentarily releases him to deny the pass by cutting it off.

Rarely does an NBA coach teach gapping as a primary tactic. While it has its situational uses, the lock and trail and top-lock are more reliable as general strategies for guarding off-ball screens. But there is often a difference between the assigned and executed defense during the course of a game, and gapping is a player-preferred method for cutting corners.

A lock and trail makes the defender follow the longest path and often requires muscling through a screen; a top-lock is physical and difficult to execute; shooting the gap, however, theoretically allows a defender to bypass contact and shortens his distance of travel.

But NBA players generally do not shoot the gap because it is efficient. It is usually a function of laziness or a previous defensive error. To be fair, smarter defenders recognize instances when gapping a pindown might prevent unnecessary exertion. Sometimes it’s clear that the offensive player is going to catch the ball well above the three-point line.

Maybe he’s in a non-threatening position or is unlikley to receive the ball because the point guard’s eyes are elsewhere. Team centerpieces who play 40+ minutes PER game are especially likely to save a few steps in one of these ways. But the risk-reward gamble here can be large, and picking the wrong moment can lead to an easy basket. Against the league’s best shooters, it can be an especially crippling manuever that gives up wide open three-pointers.


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