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Defensive Breakdown or Incredible Shot?

Last night the Sacramento Kings and Memphis grizzlies gave us a thrilling finish to a decently competitive game. 

With 5.5 seconds to go the Kings were up 97-96 over the Grizz. Memphis took out the ball in their own front court. O.J. Mayo received the pass on the wing, took a dribble towards the top of the key and hit an extremely difficult one legged fade away from about 20 feet out with just 1.5 seconds on the clock. 

Sacramento had no Timeouts left and Memphis retreated thinking that was the end of it, up 98-97. 

Clearly that wasn’t the end of the game and Matt Moore, NBA scribe and Memphis Grizzlies fan,  thinks that Memphis did a pathetic job of covering the final 1.5 seconds of regulation. 

Let’s have a look.

Consider the fact that it takes about 0.4 seconds (by NBA rules) to get a shot off. That leaves the Kings 1.1 seconds to get the ball inbounds and in position for a shot. Now consider that a speed demon like Rondo takes about 3.5 seconds to go from coast to coast. 

With no timeouts left to advance the ball, Sacramento only had two options: 

1. A Hail Mary toss down the court. (i.e. The Christian Laettner Play)
2. A running half court shot (because that’s about as far as a ball handler can get before time expires)

At this point, Memphis should have some kind of pressure on Sacramento’s ball handlers. As you can see in the photo below, Rudy gay is hovering in the middle of the court, essential defending no one. Giving DeMarcus Cousins and easy inbound pass to Evans at their own free throw line.

Pressure on Evans would have forced him to have to run up closer to the in-bounder, putting him further from his target and making the final shot that much harder.

Memphis has already done a terrible job on this play. They allowed Tyreke Evans, Sacramento’s best player, to receive the ball with no defender in front of him. 

Once Memphis realizes the situation, Rudy Gay quickly tries to rotate over. But instead of trying to defend Evans by taking a good angle and detering his progress, Rudy opts to go behind Evans and try the old reach-around defense. 

At this point we can see where the other three defenders are for the Grizzlies. Conley is on the near sideline with Beno. Randolph and Mayo are floating between the three-point line and half court. Marc is at the free throw line defending the Hail Mary play.

Conley was covering Beno on the near sideline. Nothing wrong there but once Evans catches the ball, you have to know there isn’t going to be another pass, especially with just 1.5 seconds left in the game. Conley has to try and get over to Evans as fast as he can but if you watch the video, he just gingerly strolls over towards the general vicinity of the shot. 

As for Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo? They aren’t even within 20 feet of Evans when he gets the shot off. 

If they were defending the Hail Mary, I understand why they would stand this far back. But that pass was never committed. They had to recognize the situation and run up to at least half court soon as Evans was given the in bound pass. 

When Evans takes his shot, there isn’t a Memphis defender in front of him for about 20 feet. 

One of the biggest complaints from Grizzlies fans was why didn’t Mayo or Randolph run up and put a hand in Tyreke’s face?

While I understand where they are coming from, one thought that crosses my mind is that since O.J. and Zach were so far out of position and they reacted as late as they did, they would be running full speed at a player who is also running full speed at them and already in the act of shooting. 

There was probably a greater risk that they foul Evans than help defend an already extremely difficult shot. 

The issue here wasn’t that no one got a hand up in Evans’ face. The Defensive breakdown came when Evans was allowed to catch the ball unguarded and so close to half-court while the rest of the defense was so far out of position.

Maybe it was as Bryan Crawford of Slam Magazine said, “1.5secs left, the game is over. Nobody is thinking Tyreke nails a 70 footer.”

Or maybe no one on Memphis was thinking. Period.


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