Monday, May 25, 2015

NBA teams almost always make the wrong play in the final seconds of a tie game

Leading 104-103 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night, the Hawks stole the ball from LeBron James with 27 seconds remaining.  In my mind, there's an obvious play at that point--use up the entire 24-second clock before shooting.  Either A, the Cavs foul out of fear they'll run out of time, B, Atlanta scores with three seconds to go, or C, the Hawks miss and time nearly expires while the ball is being rebounded.  The best-case scenario for Cleveland is it gets the ball with only a second or two left, still trailing.

But no, Atlanta tried to score immediately, missed, and ended up fouling Iman Shumpert on the rebound.  Luckily for the Hawks, Shumpert hit just one of two free throws, and Atlanta got the ball again in a tie game with 17 seconds to go (although in reality, the Hawks' chances of winning probably would've been better had they fallen behind and then put real effort into attempting to score).

This time the Hawks did decide to kill the clock (as teams always do in that situation), and I immediately assumed they were going to lose.  It wasn't hard to predict they'd take a long jumper (how absurd is it to shoot a three when any basket wins it?), miss, and then fall in overtime to the home team that also happens to have the best player on the planet.

It makes absolutely no sense to me that using up the clock becomes a higher priority than actually taking a good shot.

As I was yelling all of this at the television, somebody said to me "I refuse to believe that we can really be smarter about this than an NBA coach."  Here's the difference though--coaches live in fear of what can go wrong.  There's no shame in losing in OT.  But if a club tries to score without worrying about the clock, then ends up getting beat at the last second when it could have forced overtime, the coach would get skewered.

Quick sidebar: LeBron, what are you doing with that ridiculous pose?  You didn't win the title.  You didn't win the Boston Marathon either.  All you did was get Game 3 at home in a series many people expect you to sweep anyway.


  1. Different teams, but my mind strayed down a similar path recently --

    1. Yup, similar for sure. I'm still shocked L.A. didn't close that out.


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