With the NCAA Championship over, I'm really starting to get into NBA Playoffs mode. Caught the second half of an intense game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Miami Heat. Playing in different conferences, but the game really had the feel of a playoff game. Hornets head coach Byron Scott publicly called out his team, saying that Chris Paul and David West aren't good enough to carry the team, others needed to do more. The Heat have had problems closing out close games recently in the losses to the Magic and the Mavs.

With the stage set, the finish was bound to be a good one. The Hornets led for most of the first half, but a third and fourth quarter surge by the Heat led by both Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley helped them get a narrow lead into the final minute. So the situation is, Heat up 78-76, 0:10 seconds left, Wade to the line shooting 2 free throws. He misses the frontend, makes the backend, score is 79-76, 0:10 seconds left, Hornets have no TOs left, take a look,

Now, there are two clearly demarcated schools of thought in this kind of a situation. Those who think that 10 seconds or less, 3-point lead -- foul, and prevent the offense the chance to shoot the 3-pointer to tie. The other side of the debate says it better to take the chance and just play solid defense.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I clearly belong to the former school of thought -- foul the other team, especially with the clock under 5 seconds, make them hit free throws, then they try to foul, you make free throws, under 5 seconds (actually more like 3 seconds after all the fouling), it is extremely hard to come down the court and hit a 3-pointer (or even a 2-pointer for that matter should you miss your FTs and they hit theirs). In the segment above, the Heat had the opportunity to foul Chris Paul with 4 seconds left here,

Rasual Butler ends up with the ball on a broken play and hits the game-tying 3-pointer as the buzzer sounds. The Hornets rode the momentum into the overtime and went on to beat the Heat in Miami.


As for the two teams chances in the playoffs. I agree with Coach Scott, the Hornets won't go far if other players don't step up, but I think he could have approached the situation a little more tactfully. By coming out so publicly, I think he added more tension. It could be that he's tried to address it privately, but that his players weren't responding, so he felt this would motivate them, but I just think that by bringing it out in the public, it just adds more scrutiny which can serve to divide rather than unite.

As for the Heat, clearly there is some concern about their execution in crunch time, which cannot be easily brushed aside. I think part of it is inexperience in 1st year coach Erik Spoelstra, but there are enough veterans like Wade and O'Neal who have played in big games before.

For more great winning strategies from a truly great basketball mind, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on Playbook for Success. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and other basketball topics.