Genius, Last-Second Plays Every NBA Coach Should Have in His Playbook
The greatest clutch shooter in the game's history is Michael Jordan. He hit more memorable shots in closing moments than any other player. No set play was needed other than a design to get the ball in his hands.
But not every team has a Michael Jordan.
The right play call in a game's final moments takes a level of creativity and timing to optimize any given squad's best scoring option.
But as often as game-winning shots occur, it's truly amazing how few come out of set plays called by coaches. A high majority of game-winners come on isolation or broken plays in a league of superstars able to hit the impossible.
Still, when a coach has just seconds remaining in a game and needs a bucket out of a timeout, he must have a play ready.
Here's a set of genius, last-second plays every NBA coach should have in his playbook. Each slide offers a dramatized narration from the point of view of a coach directing his team.
One Full Possession, Trailing by Three Points
Situation: The Miami Heat have possession and trail by three points with 21.1 seconds remaining against the Indiana Pacers.
Erik Spoelstra calls a dribble-drive sequence with options atop the key and from the baseline wing.
Though it would never be detailed to this extent because the defense is unpredictable, let's imagine how a practice call would look.
A. LeBron (3), you inbound the ball. Bosh (5) and Battier (4), both of you stand at the elbow. Wade (2), you are the ball-side block, and Chalmers (1), you are far-side short corner.
B. Guys, listen up. We have a shot at a quick two points here if it's 100 percent available. In wheel motion, Wade you are going to run off the down-screen by Battier and the free-throw line pick by Bosh.
If the lob is open on the backdoor and we're sure of it, throw the pass to LeBron for the quick two points and we'll take the foul.
C. If it's not there, we are are going to inbound and immediately get into our dribble-drive options. After the pick, Battier will come up and catch LeBron's inbound for an immediate return pass.
LeBron, immediately attack the basket to collapse the defense, come to a jump stop and immediately kick back out to Chalmers.
D. Chalmers, look to shift the defense again out of position, and see if you can't create strong-side numbers with Wade and LeBron.
E. Wade, now that the defense is shifted, attack right and collapse that short corner defender then kick it to LeBron on the baseline wing for a three-point opportunity.
The dribble-drive set allows for some offensive freedom when a team has a pair of playmakers or eligible shooters. The hope is to use roughly three passes to disorganize the defense and create an open look beyond the arc.
The defense can counter by allowing for the two-point drive, which can also work in the offense's advantage depending on game strategy.
Tie Game with 3.8 Seconds Left
Situation: The Minnesota Timberwolves have the ball with 3.4 seconds remaining in a tie game vs. the Indiana Pacers.
Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman calls a simple but effective sideline inbound to Andrei Kirilenko that results in a wide-open Chase Budinger layup.
It looks to be a reactionary play as a result of lazy defense, but you can see that Budinger's sprinting cut is by design against a defense with soft help.
A. Ridnour is our inbounder. Kirilenko and Cunningham start at the elbows, Andrei you're away. Shved, you're near block, and Budinger, you're far block.
B. As Shved slips to the far baseline wing, Cunningham sprints elbow extended like a liner, then straight back to the basket. As he is sprinting out, the ball enters to Kirilenko off Cunningham's screen away.
C. Guys, we've worked on this plenty.
Kirilenko, stay calm with the ball and look to attack and draw the defense, and wait for Budinger to flash open through the center of the lane.
This quick hitter is a genius play-call, or genius reaction by Budinger. Either way, it's obviously a play that can work against non-alert help defenders.
It also allows for a kick-back to Ridnour for a three-point look after the inbound pass.
Less Than One Second Remaining, Tie Game
Situation: The Portland Trail Blazers have a sideline inbound with 0.9 seconds remaining in a tie game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Nate McMillan draws up a beauty here on March 26, 2011 with a simple, but genius lob play.
With the defense playing tight for good reason in a tie game with just under a second remaining, the Blazers run a decoy slip screen for the quick bucket.
A. Alright, we've run this play 10 times in practice the last week, and I'm confident here. Miller, you're inbounding this one. Aldridge, you immediately bring your defender with you to the near short corner, and Matthews, you shoot out above the arc.
B. Roy, this sell is on you.
You need to come hard toward the ball, looking as if you are ready to shoot. Sell it hard. At the same time, Batum, you will decoy as if you're about to set the pick on Roy's man.
C. Batum, once Roy makes his move, slip the screen with a quick pivot and a direct cut to the hoop, where Miller will meet you with a lob pass right at the basket.
The rehearsed play is perfect for situations in which a quick shot or tip is necessary. If the defense does anticipate the slip, it still allows for a quick entry to the shooter (in this case, Roy).
Have some other genius last-second plays? Let @jimmypspencer know on Twitter.