In basketball, a half-court press is a defensive strategy used to force turnovers and cause disruption for an offense. Half-court presses are variations of a defensive formation and strategy called pressing, wherein defensive players apply pressure to the ball-handler near the midcourt line. Once the ball passes into the frontcourt, the threat of a backcourt violation makes the timeline an "extra defender."
The goal of the half-court press is to disrupt the offense's plays by pressuring the ball-handler. It is tough to run organized plays when the offense is concerned with keeping the ball safe. The defense will attempt to get the ball-handler into the trap zones. This way, the ball-handler is more likely to go out of bounds, commit a backcourt violation, or make a risky pass.
Like normal defensive formations, half-court press formations are formatted in the X-Y-Z arrangement. X-Y-Z refers to the position of the players in three layers: the X-layer, Y-layer, and Z-layer. These layers make it easier to call and understand plays, as well as The "X" layer is closest to half-court, while the "Z" layer is closest to the goal line. For example, players in a 2-1-2 half-court press are positioned like this:
Other common half-court press formations include the 2-3 and 1-2-2. Half-court presses can be performed out of both zone or man-to-man defenses.