June 2, 2010 • DefenseWinning Hoops

‘Triangle-and-Two’ defense keeps opponents at bay

Our program has had a lot of success using a Triangle-and-Two defense.

A good Triangle-and-Two defense:

  • Matches up your defense to focus on the opposing offense’s best or most dangerous two players.
  • Confuses the offense and causes it to hesitate and think as opposed to reacting instinctively.
  • Is relatively easy to teach to your players.
  • Forces your opponents to change strategy. Your opponents may not know what to do against this defense.
  • Keeps your post players in the paint for rebounding purposes.
  • Controls tempo and limits how many touches an opponent’s best players get on the offensive end.

If an opposing team has three talented players you may run this defense when one of them is out of the game to give your opponent a different look. We normally don’t run this defense for extended periods of time. When used only for a few possessions at a time it can cause confusion in an opponent.


The following diagrams illustrates the initial set up movements and player responsibilities for the Triangle-and-Two defense.

triangle-and-two defense 1

DIAGRAM 1: Initial Defensive Set. X2 and X3 who should be your two best defenders are assigned to guard the opposing team’s best two shooters. X1 is responsible for denying penetration and watching the high-post area. X4 and X5 are responsible for the post players.

triangle-and-two defense 2

DIAGRAM 2: Defending A Talented Point Guard. In this match-up X2 is on the opposing team’s point guard. This is done in situations where the other team’s point guard is one of their top two most dangerous players.

There are slight alterations that still make this a Triangle-and-Two defensive formation. You now have X1 at the top of the triangle ready to close out on the offensive player on the wing. If the ball is passed to the wing X1 would close out and X4 would cover the high-post area. X1 stays in to help with penetration and the high post until the ball is passed to the wing.

Baseline overloads corner attacks

To counter your Triangle-and-Two you’ll run into situations where the offense will try and flatten out the defenders that are on a man along the baseline. The offense will then try and split the defender on the top of the triangle.

In this case you will invert the triangle and move one of your post defenders to the elbow.

DIAGRAM 3: Inverted Triangle. Note that you’re still in a triangle just not the traditional triangle. This approach can confuse teams and make them think that you’re in a man-to-man since you’re matched up with the offense.

There are also situations where an opponent may try to put someone in the corner to break down your Triangle-and-Two defense. In this scenario you have two defensive options.

DIAGRAM 4: Option A. You can send the post defender in the bottom of the triangle out to defend the corner.

triangle-and-two defense 5

DIAGRAM 5: Option B. If the corner player is someone whom you feel is uncomfortable shooting a deep 3-pointer or if it’s out of an opponent’s offensive scheme you may decide not to go out and and defend him or her.

triangle-and-two defense 6

DIAGRAM 6: Triangle Box-Out Positions. The Triangle-and-Two gives you an advantage when it comes to rebounding as the three defenders in the lane give you a solid box-out base for rebounding. The two perimeter defenders should concentrate on stopping the two most dangerous scorers.