Coaches are always thinking of new plays to attack the defensive schemes they encounter during the season. Basketball is a game of adjustments, with one coach or team running a play while the other coach works to take away that play. The other coach then makes an adjustment to counter that defense. It’s like a game of cat-and-mouse, and the ones capable of making these adjustments throughout the course of the game are usually the winning teams.
While coaching the Las Vegas Bandits in the International Basketball League, I would hear former NBA player Harold Ellis yell out during games, “I have a mouse in the house,” or “Get me the ball.” What he was saying is that he had a smaller player guarding him, and the mismatch made it advantageous to get him the ball in the post area.
I took it one step further and came up with a “Mouse” play to take advantage of not only mismatches but also players that were in foul trouble. Oftentimes a player that is in foul trouble is tentative and non-aggressive on defense out of fear of fouling out. It’s easier to score on this player.
The Mouse can be anyone on your team. Ideally, you have two 3-point shooters and a forward or center that can shoot from the top of the key and has the ability to effectively pass the ball. On the Bandits, we had 6-foot-9 J.R. Henderson, who was the perfect player to shoot or pass the ball at the top of the key. We also had former NBA players Jeff Martin and Doug Lee, who were very capable 3-point shooters.
The Mouse play was designed to take away help defense. Once the defense figured out the play, we hit them with a counter to the play called “Cat.”
The Mouse starts in a stack alignment. If the Mouse is right-handed, we started the play with Mouse on the left block.
DIAGRAM 1: Mouse (A). 2 sets a screen for 3, curls off of 4 and goes to the 3-point area of the corner. 3 comes back off of 4 and goes to the foul-line extended area near the sideline. You now have your 3-point shooters on the same side of the court.
1 dribbles off of 5, who sets an angle screen for 1 just above the elbow on the key. The screen and play works particularly well when 5’s defender shows on 1 dribbling off the screen. This enables 5 to pin the defender on his or her back.
DIAGRAM 2: Mouse (B). As soon as 5’s defender shows, 1 reverse pivots to 4, who has flashed to the top of the key area. 4 times his or her cut to get up early for the pass. 5 cuts down the lane, and 4 passes the ball to 5 for a layup or post-up opportunity. If 4 can’t make the pass, he or she dribbles over to the right and passes to 5 for the post-up play. If 4’s defender goes to help, 4 runs to the rim for a return pass from 5.
DIAGRAM 3: Cat (A). Opposing coaches started placing 2’s defender in the lane to take away the layup, so we developed Cat. This uses 3 to screen down on 2’s defender to free 2 for a jump shot after receiving the pass from 4.
I like this play because it takes away help defense, it’s simple and it has a simple counter. You can use any player in the Mouse position, and it’s particularly helpful when the opposing defender is in foul trouble.