Late Game Preparation: Add 2-3 Wins to Your Season

Your team is down one point with 4.7 seconds left in the game. One of your better free throw shooters gets fouled and goes to the line for two free throws. He makes the first one to tie the game. All he has to do is make the next free throw to put you ahead; but he misses! Somehow your team rebounds the ball under the goal with an open look at a put back. Instead of shooting the ball the rebounder dribbles the ball out to half court as time expires.

This scenario played out in front of millions during the 2018 NBA Finals as JR Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers made a critical mental error to end Game 1. JR didn’t know the correct score and no one thought to call their last time-out when they saw him start dribbling away from the goal. The Cavs went on to lose the game in overtime.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the importance of knowing how to win at the end of the game with Coach Perkins' two-part DVD How to Win at the End Volume 1 and Volume 2. We'll cover the strengths and weaknesses of preparation and plays that will help your team be ready with seconds left to play.

Strengths of Knowing How to Win at the End

  • Mental Toughness. By preparing for games to come down to a few possessions your players will build toughness that allows them to stay cool under the pressure. They will be ready to make smart decisions on both ends of the court and listen to you for direction.

  • Attention to Detail. In close games, your team has to know a number of small details such as the score, time on the clock, foul count, time-outs left, along other variables that are changing such as game plays.

  • Win Games. If your team is prepared and knows how to make the right decisions in close games then you’re more likely to come out with a victory.

Weaknesses of NOT Knowing How to Win at the End

  • Mental Weakness. Without preparation, your team will not have the confidence needed to handle the pressure and make plays when it counts.

  • Lack of Attention. If your team isn’t aware of the crucial details then it’s possible they’ll make the wrong decisions that costs your team the game. Shooting a two-pointer instead of a three, running out of time, running to the wrong spot on the play call are a number of ways players can lack attention.

  • Lose Games. Not prepared for late game situations? Your team will not be focused and ready to execute critical plays in order to win the game.

Who Might Use Knowing How to Win at the End

Every team can benefit from practicing late game scenarios. Preparing for those close games is one of the most important parts of the game, but one of the least practiced. If your team wants to be ready for back-and-forth come down to the wire games then make sure you’re working on situations that force them to learn how to perform under pressure in practice.

A team successful with the late game situations must be able to know every detail of the game and react accordingly for their team. If each player can understand what they’re looking for when it comes down to the end of the game then there’s going to be an opportunity for victory.

Late Game Basketball Situations

To set your team up for success at the end of games, you need to practice practice practice and make time for scrimmaging end of game scenarios.

Simulate your scrimmage to be as real and game-like as possible by assigning coaches, using a clock, calling time-outs, and making substitutions. Some teams even go as far as playing crowd noise over the speakers to make it loud and train their players to be ready for a packed gym.

As you’re running through these scenarios be sure to mix them up by changing up the amount of time left, score of the game, time-outs remaining, and occasionally make bad calls. Basically, work on all situations. By changing it up, it allows the players to learn how to react and adjust.

In each session, test players on knowing the TIME, SCORE, and SITUATION.

As the coach, it’s your responsibility to make sure your players never face anything in a game that they haven’t seen in practice. In teaching them to be aware of all details and putting them through numerous scenarios; they’ll be end of game ready to handle the pressure and make the winning decisions.

end of game basketball situations

Late Game Basketball Plays

Every coach should have an arsenal of plays at their fingertips to use at the end of games. Just like the players, coaches have to be ready to draw up the game plan. Being ready to make the game winning play call can be the key to victory!

One of our favorite DVDs to use for end of game play calling is How to Win at the End. In this two volume DVD, Coach Perkins shares plays from every angle of the court and has them segmented into the three most critical time blocks: under 3 seconds, 3-5 seconds, and 5-10 seconds. Here are some examples of plays from this excellent DVD.

Baseline Play - Under 3 Seconds - "Screen 2 and Screen 3"​​​​​​​

Starting Positions

  • 1 - PG - takes the ball out
  • 2 - Shooter - under the rim
  • 3 - Guard - middle of free throw line
  • 4 - Forward - between block and 3point line on ball side
  • 5 - Center - above block on ball side


  • 2 sets back screen for 5
  • 5 rolls off the screen to the goal
  • 1st option is pass to 5 for open shot
  • 4 comes and sets screen for 2
  • 2 uses screen to get to the corner for a shot
  • 2nd option is pass to 2 for open shot


Full Court Play - Under 3-5 Seconds - "Step In"

Starting Positions

  • 1 - PG - takes the ball out
  • 2 - Guard - ball side about mid-court
  • 3 - Guard - opposite side about mid-court
  • 4 - Forward - opposite side side about mid-court on the other end
  • 5 - Center - ball side about mid-court on the other end


  • 4 and 5 come set back screens for 2 and 3
  • 2 and 3 sprint to the other end of the court staying wide
  • 4 and 5 step back to the ball
  • 1 passes to 5 then runs to the middle of the court
  • 5 passes back to 1
  • 1 dribbles the ball up the middle of the court
  • 4 and 5 trailer the ball
  • 1 has options to: pull up for a shot, attack and score, attack and kick to shooters (2 and 3) or attack and kick to the trailers (4 and 5)


Free Throw Play - Under 5-10 Seconds - "Carolina"

This play is designed to be ran after the opposing team scores a free throw.

Starting Positions

  • 1 - PG - at half court
  • 2 - Guard - top block spot on free throw lane to block out shooter
  • 3 - Guard - top of the key at the other end of the court
  • 4 - Forward - bottom bow on free throw lane to rebound
  • 5 - Center - bottom bow on free throw lane to rebound


  • 4 takes out the ball as soon as the ball comes through the net
  • 5 moves to opposite side of the lane to release pressure
  • 2 blocks out shooter then releases to sprint down the opposite side to the other end of court
  • 1 sprints to ball side sideline to receive inbound pass from 4
  • 3 sprints to ball side sidline to receive pass from 1
  • While the ball is moving up the sideline 5 sprints down the middle of the floor
  • 1st option is to pass to 5 sprints up the court
  • 5 is not open then player posts up
  • 1 sprints down to fill spot and 4 trails the play at the top of the key
  • 2nd option is 3 can reverse to 1 or skip pass to 4 for a shot


Sideline Play - Under 3 Seconds - "Flare 3"

Starting Positions

  • 1 - PG - opposite block
  • 2 - Shooter - in front of ball
  • 3 - Guard - takes the ball out
  • 4 - Forward - high post (free throw line)
  • 5 - Center - ball side block


  • 1 clears out to ball side corner
  • 4 sets flare screen for 2
  • 2 steps to the ball then breaks back to opposite side of the court using flare screen
  • 3 throws a skip pass to open 2 for shot

Learn More

If you want to liked the short preview of plays from this article and want to learn more about how to win at the end of the game check out Coach Perkins DVD How to Win at the End which comes in Volume 1 and Volume 2. Volume 1 covers baseline plays, full court plays, and opponents’ free throws. Volume 2 covers half court set plays, pressure release plays, and sideline plays.

It is an incredible collection of the best game winning plays and special situations strategies. He details everything you need to know to take full advantage of opportunities to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Feb 06, 2019 Coach Chris

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