Because the offense has the ball, the defense must react to what the offense does. But the defending team can try to force the offense off balance by setting up specific plays. This section discusses several of these defensive plays.
After scoring a basket, some teams employ a defensive press. This means that instead of allowing the opponent to bring the ball past midcourt uncontested, the defense puts immediate pressure on the player bringing the ball in from out of bounds, trying to prevent any easy passes. A press quickens the tempo of the game and forces the opponent to play at a faster pace than it would like. If a team forces a turnover using the press, the team that has lost the ball is likely in momentary disarray, creating a scoring opportunity for the team that has forced the turnover. The disadvantage of the press is that it can leave only one defender close to the basket that the team is defending. If the offensive team passes the ball downcourt fast enough, it creates its own easy scoring opportunities.
A team traps by having two defensive players converge on the ball handler to make it difficult for him or her to move or pass. Teams usually trap in certain specific areas of the floor. A corner of the court is the best place, because the ball handler will be hemmed in on all four sides—on two by the defenders, and on two by the sidelines. Trapping along one sideline also works well.
The term double-teaming means guarding a single player with two defenders, anywhere on the court. A team will double-team when an opposing player has a distinct advantage. For example, if a forward is particularly good at posting up, the defenders may double-team when he or she gets the ball in a good post-up spot. With two players guarding, the forward may be forced to pass the ball. Putting on the double-team does leave one offensive player unguarded, so if the double-teamed player passes the ball away, the defense must rotate quickly and reestablish its normal defense. Teams can triple-team but generally do not because the play leaves too many offensive players open if the triple-teamed player manages to pass the ball.
Although players generally try to avoid fouls, sometimes they do foul intentionally if they are behind near the end of a close game. They do this because fouling stops the game clock. If the defense can send an offensive player who is not a good free-throw shooter to the foul line, he or she may not make even one of the free throw shots. The defensive team then regains the ball without losing time on the game clock, giving it a better chance to catch up. If the offensive team does make all its free throws, however, the last-ditch strategy of fouling intentionally fails.
A team needs to block out on defense just as much as it does on offense, and perhaps more so. If a defensive team does not block out and make rebounds, the offense receives second or third chances to score on missed shots. Blocking out and rebounding on defense also allows a defensive team to start its own fast-break offense, with players running down to the other end of the court and getting open for easy baskets.