The ball pounds against the hardwood floor. Over and over and over.
Seconds tick off the clock.
There is no sound of sneakers squeaking or bodies colliding. Just the sound of the ball repeatedly hitting the wood floor.
This is what last-second offense has come to in the NBA. There's no ball movement, hardly any picks and no set plays. It's just one player, standing by himself at the top of the key dribbling out the clock until he, or a teammate, can chuck up a shot as the clock expires.
Playoff fans witnessed this with Rajon Rondo on Friday night, holding the ball at the top of the key until he was fouled with four seconds left. By the time the Celtics were able to inbound again, Paul Pierce (who traveled first) got off a rushed, contested shot at the buzzer.
It's was more of the same in tonight's Knicks-Heat game. Down by two, Dwyane Wade dribbled around in circles before chucking up a fadeaway, contested three from the corner. He drew all iron.
Last-second possessions have become a microcosm of a bigger problem with offensive philosophy in the NBA. The game has become more me-first than ever before. Although there is no stat to quantify it, it's hard to watch the game and not feel like there are more one-on-one possessions than ever in basketball history. Even set offenses seem to be geared around passing and picking around the top of the key until some ball-handler can find a lane and take his man to the basket.
It's a troubling trend for the fundamentals of the game, and even more troubling for basketball purists. However, the tendency for one-on-one plays to determine last-second shots seems counter-intuitive. Isn't the point of a last-second shot to get the best look at the basket possible? How is that achieved by having one player dribble out the clock until he can shoot over a defender?
Wouldn't an offense be best served moving the ball around, setting screens and trying to set up an open shot from as close as possible? If that shot should happen to go in with precious seconds left on the clock, does a team not have any faith that it can defend for two or three seconds?
With more and more fadeaway buzzer beaters coming up short, one would hope it's only a matter of time before the players and coaches come to their senses.