Controlling the Tempo of a Game: Execution of the Half-court Offense

Controlling the Tempo of a Game is vital for the success of a team in any basketball match-up. A team that cannot control the tempo of the game will find that they are often not able to execute their offense in the half court and create good scoring opportunities with regular precision. This is a problem because it can lead to players becoming impatient with finding scoring opportunities and rush their individual and team offense.


Controlling the tempo of a game can be broken down and examined in the execution of the half-court offense. The half-court offense begins once the team is in their opponents defensive third. This can either be defined as secondary transition or a specific play or set which underpins the team’s offensive strategy. When looking at controlling the tempo of a game in the half court there are a few questions to reflect back upon in each situation:


For some teams Controlling the Tempo of a Game means finishing their offense with the right shot (Photo Source: Jeramey Jannene)
For some teams Controlling the Tempo of a Game means finishing their offense with the right shot (Photo Source: Jeramey Jannene)
  1. Does the offense result in a scoring attempt; lay-up, shot or defensive foul?
  2. Is the shot taken, the best offensive option available for the team; was the shot contested or uncontested, at the time of the shot was this the best option presented from the offense?
  3. Is the offensive option taken within the offensive player’s normal playing style; shooting range, individual offensive skill set?
  4. Is your team able to work the offense to create the desired shot; this maybe relevant where there is a particular tactical advantage your team is looking to exploit within the oppositions defensive match-ups or team play?
  5. Is your opposition scoring on multiple possessions in a row (fast break or half court turnovers); this will often highlight poor cohesion in teamwork?


These questions are just starting points as some other information can be extrapolated from the games statistics. Statistics worth examining are field goal percentage (two point and three point), turnovers vs. assists, and offensive rebounding.


When looking at statistics some of the obvious trends that can be seen if a team is not controlling the tempo of a game in the half court, can be a low shooting percentage. Both two point and three point shooting can be affected by the tempo of the game. When players feel pressured to make a scoring play they can take more risky shots (or low percentage shots) and as a result lower their scoring efficiency.


Similarly turnovers vs. assists can also be affected if a team is struggling in controlling the tempo of a game. It is important though to clarify where the turn-over is occurring as if this happens in the full court then the issue will need to be examined from a different perspective. In the half court however there should be a greater number of assists to turnovers in all playing periods of the game. For junior athletes this maybe a ratio of two assists to one turn-over. For senior players this should be a minimum of three assists to every turn-over or a team goal of three turn-overs a quarter. The ratio or goal in this case is subjective to the level of competence of the team. Remember the starting goal in this case can be changed to challenge the team when they become more proficient at running the team’s offense.


Offensive rebounding can also be examined when looking at controlling the tempo of a game in the half court. This is because your last phase on offense will be your teams contest for the shot and rebound (providing your offense finishes with a shot). Offensive rebounding is one of the first indicators that you are not controlling the tempo of the game as your players will not finish in an offense is executed correctly then at least some of the players will be in key rebounding areas of the floor. For this reason offensive rebounding will suffer if the wrong shots are taken and missed.


So what to do when you realise you have lost control of the tempo in the half-court? As a coach there are a number of things that will assist and depending on your team some will be better options than others. So of the options include:


  • Call a time-out: this will allow you as a coach to reset the focus of your team.
  • Make some substitutions; changing the player line-up can also be used as a solution. Sometimes coaches will play two point guards during these challenging times to assist with the flow of the offense.
  • Change the offensive strategy; it would be nice if all of your offenses worked all the time, but as a coach you need to realise when you need change up the play options.
  • Focus on the causes of the problem; identify what the issue is and address the behaviour. Too often as coaches we assume the players know what we know, and do not give them the specific knowledge needed to overcome the issue. Focus on what needs to be done to solve the challenge and avoid stating what is not working
  • Remain positive; players will absorbed what you as a coach project onto them. Avoid compounding the issue by blaming or isolating players. Focus on solutions delivered with a positive tone.


All of these aspects can be considered when thinking about controlling the tempo of a game in the half court. During a game monitor those areas you know are a weakness for your team. This will provide a condensed snap shot of the overall team situation in regards to the tempo of the game. However, if time permits examining every aspect in its own right will provide the best possible information to then make decisions with.


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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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