Basketball can be a cruel game sometimes. You can play a good game for 47 minutes and the one play, at the end of the game, can be the one that costs you the win. In Game 1 last night between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers, that play happened to the Nuggets last night with a bad turnover on an inbounds.

The situation: 30 seconds left in the game, Lakers up by 2, Nuggets one timeout left. The Lakers use the long armed Lamar Odom to defend the inbounds, the Nuggets use guard Anthony Carter to inbound the ball. Chauncey Billups is the intended receiver, but Carter has to lob it over Odom and Trevor Ariza steps into the lane and intercepts the pass, take a look how it went down,

There were a number of key problems with why the play ended up the way it did. I wouldn't say that there was one single factor, but they combined to create the situation,

- George Karl decided to have a shorter Carter inbound the ball, instead of a taller forward.
- The inbounds play design did not take into account the need for a safety outlet with a better passing angle along the sideline.
- The Nuggets had a timeout to use, and didn't use it.

Right after they gave it away, Kobe scored a couple of FTs, the Nuggets ran another inbounds play, this time to Chauncey Billups in the corner who hit a big 3-pointer. Now, they did need a 3-pointer in the original inbounds, but they had a forward inbound the ball this time and the passing angle to the corner along the sideline is much better because Odom cannot cross the plane and therefore the pass is unobstructed,

Unrelated to this play, but I also like how the Lakers fouled the Nuggets in the last 5 seconds, to prevent them from shooting a game-tying 3-pointer. Jeff Van Gundy of ESPN was saying how Phil Jackson doesn't like to foul when up by 3, but changed his philosophy this time. It's about playing the percentages, go with the play that gives you the best chance to win.


The Nuggets played as good a game as they could have on the road and still came away with the loss. On the plus side, they've proven to be tough enough to win on the road, and with a little better execution, they can beat the Lakers in Los Angeles. As for the Lakers, they didn't play their best, but Kobe was there when the team needed him, making all the clutch free-throws at the end of the game.

For more info on inbounds situations, then check out Bob McKillop's DVD on Winning BLOB and SLOB situations. Coach McKillop is the longtime head coach of Davidson College and known to be a master of inbounds situations. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.