Special Situations: Late Game Inbounds vs Pressure

Let's look at three late-game options for when you are up, your opponent is applying full-court pressure, and you must safely inbound the basketball.

The offseason is a great time to take a deep dive into how you approach special situations. Whether it is adding something new to your approach or dissecting your current approach this could be the difference between a win and a loss next season. In this post, we are going to take a look at a high-stress moment in the game, inbounding the basketball versus extreme full-court pressure. Specifically, we are talking about safely inbounding late in the game in order to secure free throw attempts (or a win).

As someone who tends to be more comfortable with simple approaches to late game scenarios, I do not think we need an infinite amount of concepts to draw from. I believe that we should have one basic concept that we teach thoroughly to our players, and then perhaps an alternative approach we've touched on just in case. In this post, we are going to dig into three possible approaches to a very specific scenario. The scenario that we are imagining goes something like this:

  • We are Ahead

  • They Need to Steal or Foul

  • Full Court Pressure is Being Applied

  • After a Score or Dead Ball

Check Out the Blog Post On: Princeton Point Series

Concept #1 - Four Fly Comeback -

This is a concept that I have used virtually my entire coaching career. We actually used this action when I was a player in college, and I have always been a fan of its simplicity. The main idea behind this concept is that we want to use the defense's aggressiveness against them. As the referee gives the basketball to our inbounder we are asking all four of our players to sprint towards the opposite end of the floor. In the timeout huddle, we are going to designate one player to stop in his tracks and sprint back to get the basketball. Presumably, this is our most trusted free throw shooter.

Diagram Breakdown -


The alignment of the action will be in a "Four Across" formation - approximately at the free-throw line extended line.

We are typically going to assign our "3" or "4" player to inbounds the basketball.

Initial Action:

All four players are going to "fly" towards the other end of the floor.

Given that the defense is in a denial mindset we want them reacting to our movement.


We are typically going to ask our PG to be the one to sprint back to the basketball after taking 1-2 steps towards our basket. Ideally, we want this person to be one of our best free-throw shooters - so we do not have to pigeonhole ourselves into the PG scenario.

Last Resort:

In the case that the defense does a nice job denying our PG on his return to the ball we will ask him to stop short of the baseline & post up. With his outside hand raised, we are going to ask our inbounder to lob the ball up to him to safely inbound it.

Concept #2 - Passing to an Out-of-Bounds Player -

As a fan, passes along the baseline to a teammate who out-of-bounds always looks like a masterstroke. In reality, that is well beyond my risk/reward tolerance, especially in a tight game. Perhaps if the lead is north of ten points and we are inbounding after a timeout this is something we might consider. Despite my own conservative nature in these scenarios I wanted to include something a bit more out of the box for this post.

Diagram Explanation -


The formation is a bit more unconventional, but we are going to position one man close to the block, another near half court, and the last two over the half-court.

Initial Pass:

The goal here would be to stretch the defense and provide a moment of uncertainty with a quick pass to a teammate along the baseline.

Primary Look:

The primary look here would be for the inbounder. Ideally, we would put our best free throw shooter in this position.

  • New Inbounder Runs the Baseline