Even if your team is a scoring machine, you can lose games in NBA 2K18. It’s pretty simple: If you’re firing on all cylinders but your opponent also happens to be knocking down shot after shot, chances are, you’re going to take some L’s. If your offense is in sync but there is still a deficit on the board, you may want to take a look at your defense. Sure, sometimes your opponent gets lucky and hits some unlikely contested threes, but a lot of the time, there is more you could be doing to decrease the opposing team’s efficiency from the field. If you want to become a lockdown defensive unit, check out our NBA 2K18 defense guide for all the tactics you need to know.

When in doubt, play on the ball

This may sound simple, but it makes a big difference. The artificial intelligence in 2K18 is solid, but you will always be better. You should almost always control the defender guarding the ball handler. When he passes the ball press ‘X’ (‘A’ on Xbox One) to instantly switch defenders. The computer tends to give too much space to your opponent, leaving them more likely to get open looks. You can mitigate this by being the active defender. If you don’t like cycling through with X/A all the time, you can press R1 (RB on Xbox One) to pull up overhead icons. From there, you can switch between defenders with ease. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but we will touch on those later.

Maintain your stance

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Along with staying on the ball, maintaining a defensive stance is crucial. There are two main defensive stances and you should almost always be implementing one of them.

Press R2 (RT on Xbox One) to enter a tight defensive stance. You can virtually press directly against your opponent without getting called for a foul, and strafe with them as they make moves toward the basket. Besides being too close for your opponent to get off a quality shot, maintaining your stance can lead to steals. If your opponent is overzealous, your press defense can sometimes make them lose control of the ball and you will be right there to scoop it up. We advocate using a full-court press, sticking with your man all the way down the court.

If you’re up against a particularly crafty player (Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, basically any point guard), you have to account for their quick moves. Adept ball handlers can slip away from defenders with ease if you aren’t on top of your game. If you start to see a quick move in one direction, you can execute a fast shuffle so you don’t get burned. To fast shuffle, hold L2 and R2/LT and RT and push the left analog stick in the direction needed to block off the dribbler’s move.

The second type of defensive stance is hands-up defense, which can be utilized by moving the right analog stick in the direction of the ball handler. Hand-up defense focuses more on anticipating shots and passes than blocking off the dribbler’s moves. Hands-up defense is more effective at tipping passes and sets you up better for contesting shots, but it also makes you more prone to committing reach-in and shooting fouls.

Both types of defensive stances get the job done. Our general rule of thumb is that we use the tight defensive stance outside of the key (the paint) and the hands-up defensive stance when in the post, where contesting shots is more important.

The only time when you should abandon your defensive stance is when you are chasing down an opponent who has gotten in front of you. In this scenario, you should sprint with R2/RT to catch up with them before entering back into your defensive stance.

If you find yourself unable to keep up with a the ball handler, sometimes it is beneficial to call a double team. Press and hold L1/LB to call for help and double-team the ball handler. Naturally, this will leave an offensive player wide open, but if you swarm the dribbler quickly enough, you can often get them to stop their dribble, allowing you to return to normal coverage, or, even better, force an errant pass.

Steals and forcing turnovers

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While in one of your defensive stances, you can also attempt to pick the dribbler’s pocket. To try to steal the ball, press Square (‘X’ on Xbox One). You must be careful not to get too aggressive with steal attempts — if you press it multiple times in a row, you will likely commit a reach-in foul.

We’ve had the best success manually forcing steals when the ball handler is idly dribbling, waiting to make their next move. Once the ball starts switching from hand to hand, you are almost always better off sticking with your up close defensive stance.

One other method for getting the ball back is to plant your feet and attempt to take a charge. To take a charge, press and hold O (‘B’ on Xbox One). When a dribbler is barreling down the court, you can take the risk and plant your feet. If they run into you, and you are firmly planted, they will get called for the charge — your ball. Be careful not to try this in the restricted zone — the arc in the bottom of the paint under the hoop — as you will get called for a blocking/shooting foul. We found that going for the charge is good when playing against opponents who like to muscle their way down to the hoop haphazardly (without setting picks or passing the ball).

Your last ditch option is to flop. No one likes a flopper, but hey, if you draw the offensive foul, it worked out for you. To flop, double tap O/B. We’ve found flopping works best in the post, when the ball handler is backing you down. Be aware that if you don’t get the call, your opponent will likely have a clear lane to the basket.

Contesting shots

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Like stances, you have multiple options when an opponent starts his shooting motion, each of which should be used in different scenarios.

First, if you’re already in the hands-up defense, you will automatically go up to contest the shot when it is taken. If you want to avoid fouling your opponent, this is the easiest way to at least put your hands in their face when shooting. Shooting accuracy is determined by both timing and your defense, so at the very least, you are lowering the shot chances with a hands-up contest.

If you want to get your hands higher up to follow the shooting motion, you can perform a vertical contest. To do this, you have to pull away from the defender and press Triangle (‘Y’ on Xbox One). You will go straight up with both hands, which also means that you will avoid fouling.

With both hands-up defense and vertical contests, you will obstruct the shooter’s vision, but you’re unlikely to block the shot. To block an opponent’s shot, you have to press Triangle/’Y’ while still near the defender. Your defender will go up with one hand to reach for the ball. You can also modify your block into a swat by pressing R2 with Triangle/RT with Y. We recommend going for a swat block when the offensive player is in stride while shooting.

Unlike vertical contests and hands-up defense, going for blocks can lead to fouls. Keep in mind, though, that fouls inside the paint are often considered good and necessary. Sometimes you will block the shot, other times you will commit a shooting foul. Either way, preventing easy layups and dunks should be one of your main defensive goals.

Off-the-ball defense

As mentioned, a good rule of thumb is to always play defense on the ball to keep up with the play. After you become an efficient defender on the ball, though, you can start employing techniques to better your off-the-ball defense. The end result is a more efficient and well-rounded defense in general.

Boxing out and grabbing boards

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The AI does some boxing out on shots on its own, but you can increase your chances of securing rebounds by switching players when a shot goes up and boxing out on your own. Switch to the closest defender to the hoop and hold L2/LT to box out your opponent. Typically, you will be controlling forwards and centers in these scenarios.

When the ball comes off the rim, press Triangle/Y to jump up to grab the rebound.

Denying passing lanes

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Stopping the flow of the offense is important. You want to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to run an efficient offense. If the man with the ball isn’t the one who typically takes the shots, or say, there is a star player on the court looking to get open (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, etc.), playing off-the-ball defense on that likely offensive juggernaut is a smart technique. There are several techniques you can employ to make it hard on that star player.

If the player is cutting across the court to get open, you can bump them by pressing and holding L2/LT. Or, you can “chuck” them, by moving the right analog stick towards the player and holding L2/LT. In our experience, using chuck results in fewer defensive fouls, as you get your hands off of them more quickly.

If the star player is still out on the wing and waiting for a pass, you can cut off that passing lane with multiple techniques. Moving the right analog stick in the direction of the player waves your hands in the air. When the star is calling for the pass at the top of the key, engage them by holding L2/LT. Both of these methods can result in deflected passes.

Keeping the ball out of a star player’s hands behind the three-point line is good, but making sure they don’t get a good look in the paint is even better. When they are in the paint, use the same L2/LT technique to press against their back. You can modify this useful technique in the post by moving forward, pushing them further away from the basket. Or you can completely eliminate the chance of him catching it in the post, by moving the right stick in the direction that the offensive player is posting up on you. You have to watch their feet. If they are backing you down to the left, move left, and vice versa.

On the flip side, if you are backing down the offensive player in the post, tempting the ball handler to throw the pass, press L2/LT to hold your ground. When the pass is in the air, press Square/’X’ to jump up and steal the ball.

Even though playing off-the-ball defense can be beneficial, if you’re struggling to keep up with the offense while employing some of these techniques, we recommend returning to on-the-ball defense. You can be an above-average defender in NBA 2K18 by just staying with the ball. Many people sleep on defense because it’s not as flashy or fun, but if you can make life difficult for the offense by being a pesky defender, your offensive possessions won’t feel as do-or-die.

NBA 2K18 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Kyrie Irving, recently traded from the Cavs to the Celtics, graces the cover.