Triangle and Two Defense Guide

Posted by Chris Hungerford on 24th Jan 2019

Triangle and Two Defense

A junk defense can be exactly what a team needs to neutralize their opponent. A junk defense is a defense that combines man-to-man and zone principles together. Changing from a man-to-man defense or a zone defense to a junk defense would disrupt and confuse your opponent by taking them out of their game plan.

Have you ever played a team with two outstanding scorers? These two players carry their team by scoring the majority of their team’s points. In other words, they make the team go on the offensive end and if they’re shut down then their team has no back-up options.

When you match up against a team with two big-time scorers then it may be a prime opportunity to use the Triangle and Two Defense. This defense involves two defenders playing man-to-man defense on your opponent’s best offensive threats while the other three defenders are playing zone defense in a triangle formation.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the Triangle and Two Defense and its strengths and weaknesses, who might use this defense, and go into more detail of positions and rotations. When you’re done reading, you should have a better understanding of the Triangle and Two Defense and if it’s a defense to add to your team’s arsenal.



Strengths of the Triangle and Two Defense

    • Opponents Aren’t Prepared. Most teams practice against a man-to-man and zone defenses which means they do not give time to practicing their offense against a junk defense. With this in mind, the Triangle and Two Defense would take them completely out of their game plan and force them to figure out another way to score on offense.
    • Frustrate and Fatigue Main Scorers. When superior scorers go from dominating and scoring at will to being unable to even get open for pass then it’s probably going to cause some frustration. At the same time, they’re going to have to work even harder to get open which will begin to wear them down. This is a double-win for your defense because it has done its job to take the scorers and the offense out of their game plan.
    • Easy to Learn. The Triangle and Two Defense is an easy junk defense to implement into your game strategy. Everyone’s responsibilities are straightforward so you won’t need to use value practice time to teach it because it won’t take your team long to understand it.

Weaknesses of the Triangle and Two Defense

    • Middle of the Paint. Like most zones, the middle is the biggest threat to defeat. If the offense is able to exploit the middle of your Triangle and Two then your defense is busted. With the middle of the paint being the most vulnerable, it’s essential for your triangle defenders to be in the correct positions to deny any inside passes.
    • Outside Shooters. With limited players guarding the majority of the three-point line, your opponent is going to get some open shots. If you are playing against a team that can shoot the ball then they may take you out of your junk defense pretty quickly.
    • Main Scorer is a Post Player. The Triangle and Two Defense is better geared towards shutting down scorers who get their points from the perimeter or off the dribble. If one of the main scorers is in the post looking to score off post ups then this defense could be too crowded in the paint and not a practical approach.

Who should use the Triangle and Two Defense?

The Triangle and Two Defense was constructed to stop outstanding scorers from getting their buckets and forcing reserve players to step up and beat you. It works best against a team where their scorers are on the perimeter looking to score from open shots and dribble penetration.

Your team’s main goal should be to disrupt the offense and take them out of their game plan. By shutting down their best players, you’ll definitely be making them quickly figure out a new plan and adjustments on the offensive end.

Some teams may play this defense the entire game while others may implement it for a single possession (or more) to continually cause chaos on the defensive end. This could even be a defensive option if your opponent has three talented players, but out of them is out of the game.

Triangle and Two Defense Overview

When you match up against a team with two big-time scorers then it may be a prime opportunity to use the Triangle and Two Defense. This defense involves two defenders playing man-to-man defense on your opponent’s best offensive threats while the other three defenders are playing zone defense in a triangle formation.

Triangle and Two Defense Rules

    1. Limit Scorers Touches. This entire defense revolves around keeping the ball out of the hands of their two best scorers. The defenders assigned to these players must be denying the ball the entire time and not worrying about anything else. Stick to defending and denying the scorers and trust the rest of the defense is in the right position to make a stop or play on the ball.
    2. Rebounding is a MUST. Whenever the offense shoots the ball, there should be one defender contesting the shot while at least THREE defenders are getting position for the rebound.
    3. Defense Collapses when Scorer Gets the Basketball. No matter how hard your defenders try to deny the go-to scorers the ball there will be times when they still get touches. When this happens, your triangle defenders must collapse back into their triangle positions. You want everyone to be in position to help on the scorers in hopes they’ll get rid of the ball because they have no open looks at the basket or with their dribble.

Triangle and Two Defense Starting Positions

The Triangle and Two Defense is set-up in the shape of a triangle with one player up top and two on the bottom playing a zone defense while your other players are guarding your opponent’s best scorers with man-to-man coverage.

These players can vary depending on your line-up on the floor, but your triangle defense usually consists of a guard at the top and post players at the bottom. Because this defense is better used against perimeter scorers, your other two defenders are your best defenders who can match up with their scorers so this will vary depending on your opponent.

Here is an example of the Triangle and Two alignment and as you can see, Player 2 is at the top of the triangle and Player 4 and 5 are at the bottom of the triangle. Player 1 and 3 are matched up with the best scorers, who are guards, and is starting whenever that player is on the court.

Triangle and Two Defense Roles & Responsibilities

Chasers

The Chasers are given the tough task of guarding your opponent’s two best offensive players. Their only role is to make these players work for everything and not cut them any slack even if the ball is on the other side of the court. Basically, make the game as difficult as possible.

The Chasers do this by being in complete denial at all times - even when their player doesn’t have the basketball. They don’t worry about being in help position or rotating; their only focus is keeping the ball out of the star player’s hands.

You want your Chasers to be smart defenders who are going to be able to work hard the entire game. With the type of defense they’re playing, their scorers are going to get frustrated and the chaser has to keep their cool.

The key element to the Triangle and Two Defense is the ability of the Chasers to deny their assigned offensive scorer the ball. If you have solid Chasers who can do all of these things then this defense has a chance to be successful.

Top of the Triangle

The Top Triangle Defender is in charge of keeping the basketball out of the high post and guarding the perimeter whenever the ball is above the free throw line. It’s best if your Top Triangle Defender is quick and good on-ball defenders because they’re going to be covering a lot of the court.

A couple of key points for Top Triangle Defenders are:

    1. They must sprint whenever they’re going from one position to another.
    2. They must crash the boards HARD unless they’re contesting a shot.

If you have a Top Triangle Defender who can do those two things then this defense has a chance to be successful.

Bottom of the Triangle

The Bottom Triangle Defenders are in charge of defending the low post, the ball when it’s below the free throw line, and always being ready to help if they’re on the weak side. They also have to be strong rebounders. If a shot goes up, your Bottom Triangle Defenders have to be able to get the rebound and not give the offense any easy put-backs or second chance points.

A couple of key points for Bottom Triangle Defenders are:

    1. They must front the post whenever the ball is above the free throw line.
    2. They must crash the boards HARD unless they’re contesting a shot.

If you have Bottom Triangle Defenders who can do those two things then this defense has a chance to be successful.

Triangle and Two Defense Rotations

The first decision you need to make when it comes to the Triangle and Two is which of your players are going to be the Chasers. Depending on who your opponent’s best scorers are will also dictate who are the Chasers, but you do want to make sure the Chasers will be able to keep up with the scorers.

The second decision is assigning the other three players to the triangle defender positions. Generally, your shortest (guard) players will be the Top Triangle Defender and your two tallest players will be your Bottom Triangle Defenders.

Now lets breakdown the Triangle Defenders rotations because we know what the Chasers should be doing at all times - denying the ball to the opponent’s primary scorers.

Primary Scorer Has The Ball

When one of the primary scorers do manage to get the ball (and they will), all triangle defenders immediately collapse into the original starting formation depending on where the ball is on the floor.

With the triangle formation, you have great help defense if the scorer decides to attack with their dribble. As the triangle defenders help it will leave open players on the perimeter but with this defense that is a good thing. We want the primary scorers to give up the ball and force third, fourth, and fifth options to score.

The other Chaser will be in complete denial position.

Basketball at the Top of the Key

When the ball is at the top of the key the Top Triangle Defender will be between the ball and high post. They won’t be in full ball pressure, but close enough to guard if the offense wants to use their dribble and far enough away to discourage a pass to the high post. We want the offense to pass the basketball around the perimeter.

The two Bottom Triangle Defenders will each have a foot in the lane and in front of any offensive low post players trying to gain position.

Your two Chasers will be in complete denial.

Basketball on the Wing

Above Free Throw Line

When the ball is passed to a wing player who is above the free throw line, the Top Triangle Defender will shift to the ball side elbow area. Again, close enough to guard the offense if they try to use their dribble but far enough away to prevent a pass to the high post.

The ball-side Bottom Triangle Defender will be fronting on the low block ready to step out if the ball goes lower than the free throw line or corner area.

The weak-side Bottom Triangle Defender will slide across to the middle of the lane to be ready to help or close-out on a skip pass to their side of the court.

Your two Chasers will be in complete denial.

Below Free Throw Line

When the ball is passed to a wing player below the free throw line, the ball-side Bottom Triangle Defender will step out to play defense. They’re going to be close enough to guard the ball in case of dribble penetration but far enough away to take away any passing angles into the low post.

The Top Triangle Defender will shift down just below the ball side elbow area. They are in this position to help if there’s dribble penetration to the middle and to prevent any passing angles into the middle of the lane.

The weak-side Bottom Triangle Defender will step over to defend from behind on the ball-side low block, but still be ready to recover on any skip passes.

Your two Chasers will be in complete denial.



Basketball in the Corner

When the ball is passed to the corner, the ball-side Bottom Triangle Defender will step out to play defense. They’re going to be close enough to guard the ball in case of dribble penetration but far enough away to take away any passing angles into the low post.

The weak-side Bottom Triangle Defender will step over to defend from behind on the ball-side low block, but still be ready to recover on any skip passes.

The Top Triangle Defender will shift down just below the ball side elbow area. They are in this position to help if there’s dribble penetration to the middle and to prevent any passing angles into the middle of the lane.

Your two Chasers will be in complete denial.

Basketball in the Post

High Post

Despite how hard you try to prevent this pass, the ball will find its way to the high post. When the ball is in the high post area, the entire triangle should collapse back to their starting positions.

The Top Triangle Defender should apply strong ball pressure while the Bottom Triangle Defenders are ready to help on dribble penetration, prevent passes to the low post area, and be ready to guard if the ball is kicked out to below the free throw line or corner.

With the ball pressure from the Top Triangle Defender, it will pressure the high post to make a decision. If your Bottom Triangle Defenders stick to their ground down low then there won’t be any passes in the lane and the high post will have to pass out to the perimeter.

Your two Chasers are still in complete denial.

Low Post

The Bottom Triangle Defenders have to do everything they can to make sure an offensive post player doesn’t get a seal on them in the low post. Your defenders should always be fronting or working to get post players out of their position.

If the offense gets a seal on either Bottom Triangle Defender, play it straight up. The Bottom Triangle Defenders should be ready to defend against a post move while the Top Triangle Defender should be ready to help in case the bottom defenders are sealed. Either scenario still accomplished the goal of forcing reserve offensive player of beating you.

Your two Chasers are still in complete denial.


Here's a great look at one of college basketball powerhouses, the University of Kansas, running a the Triangle and Two Defense. Coach Bill Self decided to use the Triangle and Two against the University of North Carolina during March Madness.


Defending Skip Passes in the Triangle and Two Defense

Skip passes are one way to shift a junk defense because your defense has to cover more of the court. It can be confusing sometimes who should guard a skip pass so lets talk about a few common skip passes and how to handle them with your Triangle and Two.

Wing to Corner Skip Pass

When the basketball is skipped from the wing to the opposite corner, the weak-side Bottom Triangle Defender, who was in the middle of the lane helping, must sprint out to contest the shot or be ready to guard the offense.

As they close out on the offense, they must not give up the baseline drive but rather force them towards the middle where the rest of their help is waiting.

Corner to Wing Skip Pass

When the basketball is skipped from the corner to the opposite wing either the Top Triangle Defender or weak-side Bottom Triangle Defender will recover to defend depending on if the ball is above or below the free throw line.

Above the free throw line, it will be the Top Triangle Defender and below the free throw line, it will be the weak-side Bottom Triangle Defender. Either defender must sprint out to contest the shot or be ready to guard the offense.

Top to Corner Skip Pass

When the basketball is skipped from the top of the key to the corner, the ball-side Bottom Triangle Defender will close out on the ball without giving up the baseline drive.

One way this pass can hurt against the Triangle and Two is if the Bottom Triangle Defenders get screened or sealed by the offense. If this happens and the offense takes advantage of it then there is always going to be an open shot for the perimeter players.

To prevent getting screened or sealed, the Bottom Triangle Defenders have to always be fighting for the best position and anticipating the offense wanting to get the upper hand.

How to Beat the Triangle and Two Defense

One way to prepare your defense is to know what the offense wants to do. Here are a few plays that will exploit possible holes in your Triangle and Two Defense.

Play #1 - Elbow

Frame 1

    • 1 and 3 (two primary scorers) start in the corners
    • 2 starts with the ball at the top
    • 4 and 5 start on the block

Frame 2

    • 2 dribbles to the right
    • As that happens, 4 flashes up to the elbow
    • 2 passes to 4

Frame 3

    • After the pass, 2 cuts to the rim and tries to seal the Bottom Triangle Defender
    • 5 flashes up to the elbow
    • 4 passes to 5

Frame 4

    • 5 looks for an open shot on the catch
    • If no open shot, 5 looks to go high-low with 2

Frame 5

    • If 2 isn't open on the seal, they cut to the elbow
    • As that happens, 4 is cutting to the low block to seal the Bottom Triangle Defender
    • 5 passes to 2

Frame 6

    • 2 looks for an open shot on the catch
    • If no open shot, 2 looks to go high-low with 4

Play #2 - KU

Frame 1

    • 1 and 3 are the primary scorers
    • 1 starts at top with the ball
    • 2 and 3 start on the low blocks
    • 4 and 5 start just above the low blocks

Frame 2

    • 1 dribbles to the right wing
    • As that happens, 3 and 4 set a double screen for 2
    • 2 comes off the screen to the corner
    • After screening, 3 cuts up to the opposite side of the top of the key
    • 1 passes to 2

Frame 3

    • 2 catches to shoot
    • As 2 catches the pass, 4 goes to cross screen for 5
    • 5 comes off under screen to the low block
    • After screening 4 rolls back to the middle of the lane
    • If there's no open shot off initial screen, 2 can pass to 5 on the low block or 2 in the lane

Frame 4

    • As 2 is checking their options, 1 goes to screen away for 3
    • 2 doesn't have an opening and passes to 3
    • 4 cuts back to opposite low block

Frame 5

    • 3 reverses the ball back to 1
    • As the ball is being reversed, 4 and 5 are setting a double screen for 2
    • 2 comes off screen to the opposite corner
    • 1 reverses to 2 for a shot

Frame 6

    • This starts the offense over
    • 4 sets a cross screen for 5
    • 5 comes under screen to low block
    • After screening, 4 rolls back back to middle of lane

Play #3 - Under

Frame 1

    • 1 and 2 are primary scorers
    • Offense starting in a 1-4 alignment
    • 1 starts at top of key with the ball
    • 2 and 3 are on the wings
    • 4 and 5 are on the elbows
    • 1 passes to 4

Frame 2

    • After passing, 5 and 3 step up and set a flare screen for 1
    • 1 comes off flare screen for a pass from 4

Frame 3

    • After setting the screen, 3 dives to ball-side block to post up
    • 2 and 4 go down to set a double down screen

Frame 4

    • At the same time, 5 is coming to set a ball screen for 1
    • 3 comes off the double down screen as 1 comes off the ball screen
    • 5 rolls to the rim after setting ball screen
    • 1 comes off the screen and passes to 3

Frame 5

    • After setting the double screen, 4 flashes up lane line
    • 2 goes and sets a back a cross screen for 5
    • 5 comes off screen to post up on low block
    • 3 looks for 5 posting up or 4 on the lane line

Learn More

This Triangle and Two Defense Guide should cover everything you need to know about this defense, but there's always room to grow.

One of the best learning tools on the market is Coach Rick Majerus' Complete Guide to Triangle and Two Defense. In this DVD, Majerus covers his philosophy on the Triangle and Two, player responsibilities, and different techniques on how to handle shooters, cutters, and screeners. If you're looking for as much detail as possible for this defense then Majerus' Complete Guide DVD is for you.

Want more about Junk Defenses? Jamie Angeli's Junk Defenses That Work DVD is packed with ideas on using the Box (Diamond) & 1, Triangle & 2 as well as unique concepts including the Designated Helper.

Angeli also put together the ultimate collection of continuity actions and set plays that will destroy any Box & 1 or Triangle & 2 junk defense in his Attacking Junk Defenses.

Get both DVDs today to learn how to utilize a junk defense as well as how offenses will try to beat your defense.

For more DVDs check out our basketball training videos which feature the best of the best. From the top coaches in high school, college, & the Pros to the best basketball trainers who teach Pro players we have them all. We have DVDs for rent by mail, downloads available for purchase and 48 hour rental.

You can watch them over and over, take notes, and then rent another DVD over the same topic and very quickly your knowledge of a specific topic will reach mastery level. Using basketball training videos as a coach can change your entire coaching style.