Creating Pockets of Space: Posting Up/Backing In

As we get ready to watch the upcoming pace and space Western Conference Finals between the Golden St. Warriors and the Houston Rockets and all of the anticipated open range scoring that series implies, we only have to go back a few days to the Celtics’ dismantling of the 76ers to be reminded that good, old fashioned posting-up is still an effective way to acquire smaller areas of space for opportunities to score.

If you’ll remember at winning time in that game, whenever either Jayson Tatum or Marcus Smart found T.J. McConnell or JJ Redick, they either posted them or backed them in (same thing).  As I mention the concept of “backing in”, I might wonder aloud why it’s an NBA thing and not more popular at lower levels. It seems too effective a weapon not to have in a repertoire. Getting back to the Celtics, Tatum used his height and length and Smart used his girth and strength to “leverage” McConnell and Redick to acquire the slivers of space to get good shots.

While the pace and space trend is surely not going away, it is an important reminder to us that there are a lot of ways to play and that we probably shouldn’t totally abandon the post-up even if we don’t have an effective #5 man.  Neither Tatum or Smart are #5’s but neither were the players who guarded them. A few additional reminders are in order:


  • Most teams you will play DO NOT practice post defense very much (if at all) with their perimeter players.
  • Matchups are everything.  You will have players who can isolate certain defenders on the perimeter or in the post or both.
  • A post up can be a quick-hitter when you don’t have time or want to use time.
  • A post up can act as a change-up even if you otherwise spread the floor.
  • A post up can be a 2-3 second option after a cut in a spread offense.  
  • One’s personnel might dictate that you can’t pace or space as much as the trend dictates or that you would like.    

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