Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is it OK to Take Three Three-Pointers in the Last Minute of a Game You're Winning by 35?


There was some grumbling in the Sacramento Bee today over the Magic continuing to pull threes late in the fourth quarter of their 139-107 obliteration of the Kings. The Magic set an NBA record with 23 threes in the game, including a handful in the fourth quarter. Here's the Bee's Sam Amick:

"The rub for the Kings was that the Magic kept rubbing it in, with starter Courtney Lee on the floor until the end alongside sharpshooting reserve Keith Bogans. The Magic shot 10 threes in the fourth despite leading by 22 entering the period, with a Bogans three with two minutes left extending their piece of history and infuriating the Kings."

Let's ignore the fact that the "sharpshooting" Keith Bogans is a career 39.6 percent shooter and focus on the larger question: Did the Magic run up the score? The answer is no; they extended their lead, yes, but they did not run up the score in, say, the way the Patriots did during their magical 18-1 season. 

After a Hedo Turkoglu three with 7:47 left to go, the following members of the Magic took three-pointers: Brian Cook, Tony Battie, Bogans and Jeremy Richardson. It was Richardson who made the Magic's record-breaking 22nd three with 2:19 left. 

Bogans and Battie are rotation players, but Cook barely plays and Richardson has played 24 minutes all season--and was in danger of being sent to the D-League earlier this month. 

If you've read Paul Shirley's book Can I Keep My Jersey?, you know those garbage time minutes matter very much to players like Jeremy Richardson and Brian Cook. Especially Richardson, who has no guaranteed money after this year and has to use every second to prove he deserves a real NBA look.

Running up the score would mean keeping Howard, Lewis, Nelson and Turkoglu on the floor late into the fourth quarter and pushing the pace. Howard didn't play the entire quarter, and Van Gundy took Lewis out with about 11 minutes to go. 

If the bench players want to run the floor and shoot threes, they should do it. The Kings are a professional basketball team, and it's their job to play defense. To his credit, Francisco Garcia, who said the three barrage made him angry, admitted so much after the game, telling the Bee of the embarrassment: "That's the price we've got to pay. We weren't playing no defense."

The Bee (and Sactown in general) may be nit-picking here because of bitterness toward Stan Van Gundy for the way he (allegedly) feigned interest in the Kings vacant head coaching job in the '07 off-season--even telling them he was going house hunting, according to some accounts--while negotiating in secret with the Magic during the Billy Donovan fiasco. 

Still, though, the Magic did not break unwritten rules on Tuesday night.

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