NBA Crunch Time: How Good Teams Fall Apart in the Clutch

Jaime IrvineCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Caveliers dunks the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first quarter of the NBA basketball game at Staples Center on January 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Last week, I caught an article on crunch-time via Truehoop by Sherman Alexie who was complaining about NBA teams and players in crunch time. To summarize, Sherman writes how frustrating it is to watch an NBA game where the players and teams are playing smart ball to only throw up some prayer at the end on a poorly designed play.

I couldn’t agree more with Alexie’s article. After watching the highlights of the Heat vs. Cavs game last night, (sorry couldn’t find what I am talking about on the internet or I would include a video/link) I wanted to write an article on crunch time.

Down the stretch of the game, both teams’ plays were mediocre at best. LeBron tried to beat Wade off the dribble from the top of the key, only to barely get a shot off and cry to the official like a dejected contestant on American Idol with Simon Cowell.

Yeah, LeBron you didn’t get fouled and no, you won’t be going to Hollywood. On the other end, I can even talk about what the Heat ran.

NBA in crunch time reminds me of my friend Daniel in Vegas. He will be methodically killing it for two straight hours at the black jack table. Playing all of the odds right, doubling down when you are suppose to, doing what it takes to win.

Then, he heads over to the Craps table. Stands there to mull over his decision: Do I bet on the pass bar? Or a hard eight? What is the come bet? Only to then bet on the field, three different numbers, and then never backs up his pass line bet for the best odds on the table. One minute later he is crapped out. One word, Frustrating.

Since the end of the '80s, NBA teams have become increasingly over-coached. There is no natural flow of the game. It is rarely seen that teams will incorporate an “offense” such as passing game, and instead rely on the coach to literally call a play every single time down the court.

Everything is trying to be puppeted (yep pretty sure I just made that word up) by the man walking down the sidelines in the Armani suit, sans Popovich who I think would don Wranglers and a t-shirt if Stern wouldn’t give him Dick Bavetta every game in the playoffs as punishment.

Except for the last minute, crunch time, the game winning play, coaches forget they have a playbook. I never understood why a coach would call so many plays throughout a game, I am assuming they are trying to score, and then in the most pivotal point of the game they go to a 1-4 and try and isolate there best player from the top. If that is the best play, why not run it everytime down the court?

Your best players are guys who are just that your best players. They can certainly score, but also make plays for your team. Why not put them in position to make plays and let them react to the defense? Why not force the defense to actually play defense?