Monday, January 19, 2009

Pop Quiz: Down Three With 12 Seconds Left, What Do You Do? Also: Introducing the "Kobe Effect"

Raptors coach Jay Triano was faced with the exact same end-game situation two days in a row on Sunday and Monday: His team had the ball trailing by three points with 12.5 seconds left in the game. Twelve seconds is a strange, in-between amount of time--not quite short enough that you absolutely have to go for the tie, but not exactly long enough that you can score the quick two, foul the other team and be guaranteed to get a good look coming back on offense. 

The Raptors got the ball at mid-court off a timeout in both games. Against the Suns on Sunday, Triano opted for the quick two. Anthony Parker received the in-bounds pass at the top of the key, drove right and banked a lay-up just short. Bosh missed a put-back, and the clock ran all the way down to 0.5 in the scramble. Game over.

A few key factors probably influenced Triano's decision here. First, and most important, his two best three-point shooters (Jason Kapono and Jose Calderon) were out with injuries; that left Bargnani (42.5 percent) and Parker (40 percent) as the remaining options for a game-tying three. Second, Shaq had fouled out of the game. Maybe Triano thought Parker would have an easier time finishing without the Daddy around the rim. 

About 26 hours (and one flight to Atlanta) later, the Raps found themselves in an identical situation after Joe Johnson hit a contested 18-footer to put the Hawks up 87-84. 

(Side note: The Hawks have no such dilemmas with their last-second offense, as we C's fans found out last spring. The play is simple: Give the ball to Johnson and watch him either drive and draw a foul; post up and hit a turnaround jumper; or drive and pull-up for the J. It's time to start talking about Joe Johnson as one of the best finishers in the game. Or maybe it just seems that way--Johnson's "clutch" FG% is just 33 percent this year, and it was well under 40 percent last year, according to I will heretofore dub this the Kobe Effect, defined as: "When a player creates the popular notion that he is clutch simply by taking so many late-game shots that he inevitably hits enough to create this impression, even if it is not true"). 

Kapono was in the lineup this time, and Triano opted to send him around a baseline screen for a three from the right wing. Kapono couldn't shake his man and tossed up an airball under extreme duress. Game over. 

So Triano tried both strategies and neither worked. Someone ( Bill James?) should do a study on which strategy gives better odds of sending the game into overtime, and what amount of time remaining is the cut off after which you must go for the tie. I don't have a clue what Triano should have done in these situations. My hunch, though, is that with 12.5 seconds left, the right play is to go for the tie--especially since a quick two isn't a guarantee. But that's just my hunch. What are your thoughts? 


  1. It really depends on the situation and the team. If you have a great guard who can get to the rim easily and score or pass for an easy layup, I'd go with that. If you have great three-point shooters, run a play that sets up an open three. If you have both, you're probably not down three in that situation.

    Another interesting analysis would be what to do when you're UP three with five to ten seconds left. Do you foul to force two free throws, or do you play defense and risk the other team hitting a 3-pointer ?

  2. 1) I'd probably go for the tying three most of the time.

    2) To your question, I think coaches should foul more often.

  3. agree and agree. love the "Kobe Effect" true.

  4. i agree, a tie is the best option.

    There are also other factors involved:

    1. the FT% of the Opp.
    2. the Defensive Pressure of the Opp.
    3. your teams 3-pt% and FG%
    4. Is someone on your team red hot.

    I think that overall, the tie is the best option if you have any kind of decent shooter on your squad. So many times have i seen teams go for two and foul and all they accomplish is extending the game.

    Especially if the other team has a good or "clutch" FT shooter. If you make the 2-pt shot and they make both FTs, all you are doing is limiting your time for the last second 3-pt shot JUST to tie it. Draw up a 10 second play that goes for the three.

    This gives your team a good 10 seconds to find a decent shot and limits the other team from having enough time to get a good game winning shot off.

  5. In that situation the best thing to do is NOT coach the Raptors!

    Good teams/players find a way to win, bad teams/players will always find a way to crumple to the floor in a wet heap like a used bath towel.
    Yes, I'm talking to you Chris Bosh.