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NBA 2K20: 5 tips to defend like a pro

It has always been easier to play good offense in NBA 2K than playing quality defense. On offense, you dictate the tempo of the game by harnessing your creativity and making the first move, but on defense every movement is made in reaction to the opposing team.

You can never fall asleep during a possession - you need to be on the prowl at all times, maintaining the intensity of a professional defense. If you struggle on the defensive end in NBA 2K20, these tips will get you on the road to becoming a lockdown defender.

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Contest shots

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In past editions of the game, you could stay hugged up to the ball handler with a combination of L2/ LT and RS. Your player would stick a hand out to contest a shot when using this combination, so it would be pretty difficult for your opponent to get an open look if you stuck close to them.

In 2K20, the focus has shifted to manually contesting shots in an attempt to separate the stronger players from the weak. To know when to contest, you will need to watch your player’s feet, only committing to a contest once one of your player’s feet have left the ground:

Use Triangle/ Y or flick RS up quickly to contest the shot - but remember that with the increased focus on manual defending, timing is everything.

Flicking RS to contest shots take some getting used to, but tend to work better as your thumbs are already on both sticks.

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The shot contest buttons are also for blocking, so if you are defending close to the player theres a good chance you’ll get a hand on the ball. If you find yourself committing fouls too often, use the ‘vertical contest’ instead: 

If you move LS away from the shooter while contesting for the ball, your player will jump straight up, which eliminates the chance of fouling. 

This will influence the ‘openness rating’ of the shot, lowering the chances that it will land.

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Pick their pocket

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The other area of defense that has changed a lot in recent years is steals - too often in past editions did a reasonable steal attempt result in a reach-in foul, or something that made even less sense. Steal attempts were made almost too successful on 2K19, but the balance seems to have been restored in 2K20. 

To attempt a steal, click Square/ X, or when crowding the dribbler, flick RS down.

Force turnovers

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Knowing when to attempt a steal is more important than the attempt itself. While it takes years and years of practice to know what to look for, you should watch for opportunities in traffic and when the ball handler is dribbling carelessly. If the dribbler keeps exposing the ball during man-to-man defense, you have the perfect chance to pick their pocket.

Another way to catch out a reckless dribbler is to force a turnover through fouls, or other means. The opponents who rinse their superstars, using their offensive flair far too often and predictably, end up forcing it in sticky one-to-one situations with defenders.

In this situation, force a turnover by taking a charge, which can be done by holding down Circle/ B. And while we do not endorse floppers, you can take the impact by double tapping Circle/ B.

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Don’t lose the ball handler

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In a game, you can only control one player at any given time. That means that the four other defenders on the court are being controlled by the CPU. Thankfully, the computer A.I. has improved since last year, so you don’t have to worry about cycling through defenders in a never-ending loop.

Instead, we recommend switching to the defender that is marking the ball handler by pressing X/ A. As soon as the ball leaves their hands, you can switch to the next defender. 

With some practice, you can still disrupt lanes by stealing incoming passes and boxing out offensive rebounders by holding L2/ LT when you switch.

Remember that it’s a bad idea to leave the CPU on a dribbler for more than a few seconds - although the CPU is a competent defender, they won’t play anywhere near as tight as when you are manually controlling the closest defender.

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Make them work for it

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The number one objective of defense is to stop the ball from going in the hoop. While staying with the ball handler and getting your hands up for shots is a start, you will also have to force the offense into lower percentage situations. 

Think about it; simply getting a hand up when Kevin Durant shoots a mid-range floater will not really help that much. Instead, you need to influence ball handlers into making ill-advised decisions: reckless dribble moves, cross-court passes and low-percentage shots.

Using ‘fast shuffle’ (by holding down both triggers) allows you to stay in a defensive stance and lock down dribbling lanes. 

Around the perimeter and in the corners, tap Circle/ B to physically nudge the dribbler back. This move can force dribblers out of bounds, messing with their balance and giving you time to contest the ball.

Sometimes you’ll get burned regardless of how good your D has been. Sometimes your opponent will drain a heavily contested shot. Sometimes a split-second lapse in concentration will result in a bucket. However, the more you make the opposition work for their points, the more stops you will inevitably make.

READ MORE: NBA 2K20: Complete controls guide – Offensive, Defensive & More


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Each player has at least one type of ‘Takeover’, and three out of the nine possible boosts are related to defense (these are lockdown defender, rim protector, and dominant rebounder).

The ‘Takeover’ feature is triggered when you play well with a player for a consistent stretch. Pay particularly close attention to the lockdown defender boost (represented by the symbol of a lock) as you have a greater chance of blocking shots and creating steals when it’s activated.

If you commit fouls, lose to a turnover, or have defensive breakdowns then your 'Takeover meter' will drain quicker. Just concentrate on your close defense and you should be absolutely fine.

If you want to practice your new-found defensive abilities, activate the in-game tutorials or utilise '2KU' in the main menu.

For more articles like this, take a look at our NBA 2K page.