What is the Paint in Basketball?

If you haven’t heard about a statistical concept known as points in the paint before, then maybe you’ve heard basketball analysts talk about it or that they need to use it when discussing a certain play. Let’s find out what the paint means in basketball.

The paint is the most important part of a basketball court, so players who control it most of the time typically have the best chance of winning. If you have wide feet and need help finding perfect basketball shoes for outdoor for you, you can check out other articles on this blog.

Offensive and defensive structures are designed with the goal of controlling the paint because they affect almost every part of the game.

Here’s a closer look at what the paint is. What does it do, how does it affect the game, and what strategy can be used to control it.

Quick Answer

There is paint underneath the basket of a basketball court that runs from the baseline towards the free-throw line and is in between the lines of the free-throw lane. It is usually painted a different color from the rest of the hardwood floor, hence why we keep calling it “the paint.”

Parts of the Paint

This area is the most crucial part of the basketball court as you can see from its position. It’s usually referred to as “the paint” because it’s usually painted the same color, but it can also be called “the lane” or “the key”.

It is called the lane because it is the rectangle created by the free-throw line and the diagonal lines that extend from it to the baseline. The players must stand outside the free-throw line when taking their free-throw shots.

At the outset of basketball, the keyhole shape referred to the shape of the lanes, which were narrow. The middle of the court and the jump ball circle formed a keyhole-shaped shape. 

The important places on the court also have specific locations that are frequently referenced by the players, coaches, and analysts. Let’s quickly look at them.

The Block

This block is the color stripes on both ends of free-throw lines near the basket. On the court, you see the block-shaped marks. While free throws, it marks players’ distance, but during play, it also provides for a player to post up.

Low Post

There are lane and basket lines between the low bar and the low post so this is a common spot for big men to post up or make a position to receive a pass, score, or make another pass from here.

High Post

This is essentially the same as the low post, however, it is elevated above the free-throw line and located closer to the key.

Top of the Key

At the top of the key, athletes stand on the outside edge of the center paint and on either side of the jump ball circle where the free-throw line is. The point guard will use the top of the key as a starting point for plays.

Importance of the Paint

There has already been mention of this being a strategic location, and you probably know by now that in all its parts it is very important. It is being talked about, but why?

The rectangular area surrounding the basket is so important because of the basket’s proximity, it is one of the best spots in the court from which to shoot.

In and around the paint, the highest field goal percentage can be achieved with more shots, so the more points you can score, the better. Layups and dunkers are made in the paint, so the field goal percentage in this area is always so high.

Conversely, on defense, the defense must keep players from getting into the paint and taking shots. This will allow the team to score fewer points and put them at a lower field goal percentage.

Strategies in the Paint

Because the key is a very important part of basketball, many plays and strategies are designed with this concept in mind.

Stretching the floor, posting up, pick-and-rolls, and penetrating the lane are ways to take advantage of the key and get potential high percentage shots.

Due to the high percentage of field goal shot in the lane, the defense often protects the paint and tries to keep the opposing team’s offensive players out of it.

Zone defenses, denying the pass into the post, and weak-side defenses are a few of the defense strategies used to control this sacred rectangle.

The battle over the interior position can be very physical for most players, and for fans. This is when everything comes down to the wire.

There is often some leeway given to players when playing this type of game which is why players generally prefer the power forwards and centers (or bigs) of the team to play this type of game.

Another reason why the bigs usually dominate in this part of the court is that rebounding and shot-blocking are happening a lot here as well. Controlling the paint is very important to a team’s success.

In many cases, a team can be measured by ‘points in the paint. This tells us how physically sound that team is and where they are scoring the most. In a team that has a good interior defense, it indicates that the big men do not rely on the 3-point shot for scoring.

Restrictions in the Paint

Throughout the years, basketball evolved, allowing big men and centers who could take a shot from behind the basket to get an open rebound or a dunker to toss the ball to them.

As a result, the 3-second rule came into play in basketball. This rule stated that offensive players could not be in the lane longer than 3 consecutive seconds before a turnover occurs.

Recently, the NBA has instituted a new defensive rule called the 3-second rule (or illegal defense), which states that a player cannot stay in the lane for 3 consecutive seconds without actively guarding an opponent.

This rule states that in the event of a violation of this rule, the offender is given a technical foul and loses possession of the ball.

Final Words

Even though 3-point shooting and open court play have become more sought-after for the last number of years, most teams still rest heavily on their inside game. In basketball, a team’s performance in the paint indicates their playing style and their physicality.

No matter what the appeal of the outside game becomes, playing hard on the paint and playing physical is still vital in winning games.

Lillian Harris

Lillian was an exceptional player at her times. She was well known due to his unique techniques in basketball history. Now she is coaching her team in Miami.


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