Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 07:27 am
An ISO moment in basketball means the best player has the ball and is looking to take the game’s final shot. During an ISO moment, it is a one vs. one battle, and everything is on the line for both teams to either stop the shot or get the ball into the basket.
Is ISO the Same as One vs. One?
There is no one vs. one matchup on the court during any regular basketball game, like NBA, WNBA, High School, and NCAA. However, there are times when the game will turn into an isolation moment with one player playing against another. While this is technically not a one vs. one matchup since there are eight other players on the court, the ISO play tends to feel like it is since the most attention is on two players.
When Do ISO Moments Occur in a Basketball Game?
Usually, the best offensive player on the basketball team has the ball alone during the final moments against one other defender. ISO moments can also occur during the last seconds of any quarter during a basketball game because your team wants to get the final shot before it ends. However, this moment receives the most attention in the last play to win or lose a game.
What Basketball Player Tends to be the ISO Player on the Team?
Usually, the isolation plays belong to the best player on the team, like the point guard or shooting guard. For example, think of some of the best players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, etc. These are the players you want to have the ball during the final seconds of a game to take the last shot to either tie or win a game.
If your team doesn’t have an All-Star player, your isolation player tends to be the one with the hot hand on the team. The players having a great game usually take the last shot.
For the defense, they put their best defender to guard against the ISO if they can.
What Creates an ISO Ball Moment?
An ISO ball moment occurs during the final seconds of a basketball game or quarter. Usually, the score is either a tie or the difference is three or fewer points between both teams. With this game being close to the final seconds or quarter, teams tend to run the ISO. The ISO is a playing style that keeps the ball in a team’s possession up to the quarter’s final seconds.
What is an Example?
Let’s pretend that team A is up by two points with 18 seconds left in the game. Team B gets the ball, and there are 18 seconds left in the match, so the shot clock doesn’t matter anymore since that is 24 seconds. Team B wants to have the last shot at making a two-pointer or win the game with a three-pointer.
The coach calls for an isolation play to put Team B in the best situation during the match’s final seconds. Let’s pretend that Lebron James is on your team so that he will get the ball during the ISO. Lebron James will dribble up the court and start taking time off the clock. Once he crosses the center of the court, he might continue to dribble for a bit since that also takes time off the clock.
Now there are 9 seconds left on the clock with Lebron James dribbling. Passing the ball to a teammate can be risky because there could be a turnover, or the ball might go out of bounds, which means the other team gets the ball if Lebron’s team made the last touch. With that said, Lebron James will either drive to the hoop to try and tie the game or shoot a three-pointer to win it. Lebron should take the final shot with a second two remaining on the clock, so the other team won’t get the ball back if it is a tie.
What Do the Other Players Do on the Court?
During an isolation moment in an NBA game, the whole team on the court isn’t standing around waiting. Instead, they try to fool the defense by running around the court to force their defenders to stay with them. While it might seem obvious that one player will take the final shot, the offensive players can’t sit back and wait, or else the defensive players might swarm the ISO player to stop them from shooting.
Sometimes, during the final seconds of play, the ball handler will either take the last shot or call for a pick and roll play or ball screen for their teammate to perform. The goal of setting screens is to create space for the ball handler to shoot the game’s final shot via a step back or with a layup.
What Does the Opposing Team’s Defender Do During the ISO?
The defender guarding against the ISO player needs to be mindful of the clock and the ball handler. The defender can’t give up an easy jump shot, so they have to play close to the ball handler, but not too close that a crossover can have them get by you.
Most of the time, defenders will keep a reasonable distance away from the ball handler near center court because taking a shot from that far is a low probability to score. It is only when the ball handler starts getting closer to the basket that the defender needs to play much closer to defend.
Why Can’t the Defense Double Team During ISO Basketball?
No rule stops double-teaming against the ball handler during basketball. Teams don’t do that right away because they don’t want to leave an offensive player open since that will create a mismatch. The moment you double team the ball handler, they can pass it to an open teammate to take the last shot of the game.
Conclusion: What Does ISO Mean in Basketball?
In summary, an ISO moment in basketball occurs during the final seconds of any quarter. A team wants their best player to take the last shot to win or tie the game. These are the players with great ball-handling skills and who are incredible shooters.
Usually, when an ISO moment is forming, fans will be on their feet watching with anticipation. Especially when you have two elite superstars going one vs. one against each other during this moment, it is special.
Greg Kristan, owner of The Stadium Reviews, LLC and TM Blast, LLC, brings his extensive experience visiting over half of the MLB ballparks, along with numerous MLS, NHL, NBA, and NFL venues, to provide in-depth coverage on the bag policy, food options, and parking. He has also been interviewed about his experiences on several sports podcasts.