Best Quick Hitter Basketball Plays When Time Is Against You

We’ve all been there. 

The clock is ticking down, and you’re one play away from pulling a game from out of the fire. Hands are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…

Sorry, got carried away there. 

Still, aside from the Eminem throwback, you know what I mean. 

It’s late on in the game. You can almost hear the buzzer begin to sound. You know it’s coming. You’re trying to defy all logic of space and time to push it back just a second to either tie or win the game. 

Sends shivers down your spine just thinking about it—that last-minute fear. 

What you need here is a well-constructed quick-hitting basketball play. Pick and roll your way a famous comeback or a dramatic win, you know you want to. 

The ultimate goal is to get the pill into the hands of your best offensive player as quickly as possible. That’s it, that’s the aim. 

Getting your best players open for a point shot is quite an easy concept when you think about it. 

Sure, it sounds simple enough, but, as a coach, I’ve seen many of these plans fall flat on their face. As someone reading this, I’m almost sure you have too. 

When the pressure is on, every cog spinning in the wheel that is your team has to know its function. 

If not, you’re really not going to have much success here. 

The best 4 out 1 quick hitter plays are as interpretive as they are intensely worked on. They must boast functional flexibility to navigate difficult zones or push through an aggressive man-to-man-defense. 

One pass, a couple of cuts, and boom – get your point shot off. 

So then, having a variety of these in your playbook obviously makes sense. Like a high-octane game of chess, quick-hitter plays are set moves key to saving a game late on. 

By devoting roughly ten minutes to these drills across as many sessions as you fit in across a week, your team is going to be flying. 

Play Number 1: Hi-Lo and Ball Screen Option

Should you be lucky enough to boast an inside post player worth their salt, then the Hi-Lo option is one of the most time-effective plays you can call on.

By deploying a screen from the initial set, this is the ideal quick-hitter.

Basically, you’re going to want your five best offensive players positioned between the lane line and the baseline.

As you can see in the diagram, Player 1 will progress up the right-hand channel from the three-point line, with Player 4 drifting to the top of the key position.

Player 1 passes to Player 4, who should be pretty open at this point.

Then player 5 will then post up and receive the pass from Player 4, with Player 2 and Player 3 operating as the ball screen in the traffic jam that is the paint, allowing them to shoot before that dreaded buzzer.

Even if Player 4 is on the end of some, let’s say, aggressive man-marking, a quick fake, and a dribble into that right-hand channel should free up either Player 5 or Player 1 as options for the pass.

This tactic is an excellent way to get your shot off as quickly as possible. Ultimately, that’s the exact point of a quick-hitter.

If this set beats the initial press, you open up a world of possibility.

Running through this training should be straight-forward and, you know, actually kind of fun.

Players enjoy a bit of pressure in my experience, so raise the stakes a little bit. Give your defending set an incentive to block the play and watch your talented offense pick and roll around them.

Honestly, the satisfaction is electrifying.

Play Number 2: Gaitor

Constructed in the brilliant tactical mind of Michael Peck, the Gaitor move is a quick hitter designed to cut out as many passes as possible, giving your best shooter the maximum amount of time to get their shot off.

With Player 1 and Player 4 positioned at the top of the key again, flanked by Players 3 and 4 on the left and right side of them, Player 5 should be free at the low post.

One pass into Player 5 could, theoretically, see him open for the shot, but – as well all know – basketball plays rarely work out that easily.

So, going off that initial set, Player 4 becomes vitally important. Indeed, if his passing lane is screened off, then a clever pass into Player 3 after a reversal from Player 2 should fashion some space.

When Player 3 is in possession, a quick ball screen from Player 5 as he takes just a solitary step off the lane should allow Player 2, who should now be in position for a shot.

Failing that (and this is where Peck is brilliant), there are avenues this quick hitter lets your team explore.

Again going off the initial set, Players 4 and 5 can create a screen for Player 1. Should Player 5 be just outside the elbow and have his ball screen facing low post, Player 1 has the opportunity to either pop the arc or curl.

Should they chose to pop the arc, you’ve got yourself a great chance for an open three-point shot.

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Play Number 3: Triple Blob

This play’s whole schtick, so to speak, is to set up a three-point shot as quickly as possible.
You know, the exact kind of scenario every kid dreams about out on the court. Hitting the most dramatic of dramatic three-pointers to win or tie a game of their team.

On board? Thought you might be.

What you want to do here is have your set looking like this: Player 5 stands at the top of the key (center, right) with Players 3 and 4 just ahead of them, the width of the free-throw line apart.

Player 2 should be at the bottom of the left-side lane, with Player 1 on the opposite baseline.

So, with your human instruments in position, it’s time to get orchestrating.

In the dying embers of the game, cool heads prevail.

In this quick hitter, Player 4 needs to create an angle cut to get open, with Player 3 faking a ball screen over towards Player 5, giving them time to cut to Player 1 down on the baseline.

As is the whole point of basketball (we’re not trying to teach you to suck eggs here but, come on, let’s remember what we’re trying to do), Player 1 then cut its back to Player 4 at the top of the key, opening up the potential for a three-point shot.

Play Number 4: 1-4 low at the horn

With Player 1 at the top of the key and Players 4 and 5 setting a screen for Players 2 and 3 on either lane, you’ve got options.

Player 1 can either down the left or the right here, depending on how they feel in-game.

Let’s say, for example, they go down the right-hand side to Player 2. At that point, Player 4 can set up a ball screen for Player 5, who can post up their marker.

So, when 5 gets the ball, there’s the chance for a shot, but, failing that, the screen 3 is giving this basketball play should see them drift into a lay-up position.

Even down the other side, providing your players are more than capable of screening, you just repeat the process but with Players 3 and 4, with 5 adopting the pick and role duty to set-up the shot at low post.

Giving you three chances for a shot as long as every player in the set completely understands their point in the offense, it’s definitely an open avenue for some last-minute attacking play.

A quick and easy quick hitter, this play is probably the easiest coached of the lot, so definitely start with that when introducing this kind of set into your practice.

Final Thoughts

The world of quick-hitter basketball plays is a varied one.

When the heat is turned up before the final buzzer, the tendency is to rush things. Ballers don’t think correctly unless you’ve got some of these plays etched deep into their psyche, giving them a place to go when all seems lost.

Ball screens and relying on some good old-fashioned pick and roll tactics are crucial to your game, as well as getting your best players open as soon as humanly possible.

With the selection above – as long as you work on them frequently – you should have quite the choice of quick hitters capable of beating the buzzer.

Practice these are often as possible, and they’ll soon start to feel like muscle memory. Use hand signals throughout the team, so every member of these basketball plays knows exactly what’s going on, and, in a few weeks, perhaps the thought of that buzzer won’t be so bad.

Justin D. Johnson
Justin D. Johnson
Justin is a PhD student at Stanford University and has been a basketball youth coach for over ten years. He is passionate about sports, cinema, astronomy, and sharing knowledge.