The Last Stand

Much is being made of LeBron's final layup last night.  Obviously since he made it there are a ton of complaints.  As a way to ease into that conversation I thought it would be interesting to see what the alternatives could have been.

Keeping in mind that I don't know jack compared to Nate and the assistants, if it were my call this is what I think I would have drawn up.

Keep in mind there are 4.9 seconds left in the game and Cleveland has no timeouts remaining.  Everybody and their uncle knows where the ball is going for them.  I like the idea of Roy on James but as soon as the ball is inbounded I also want Travis in there doubling him hard.  Between Roy and Travis throwing the trap up at the top of the key LeBron either has to launch a tough shot over the top or pass.  I suppose he could try to split the double team but that's going to take some extra maneuvering and thus extra time.

I know this is leaving a man uncovered so I want the rest of my guys playing a modified zone.  I think I have Martell and Jones on the wings, spread wide of the key a little below the free throw line.  If anybody tries to cut down the middle to receive an easy pass they have to slide over and cover.  It's not likely that LeBron would be able to get a direct pass through the double team but a guy could cut diagonally into the key and create an angle so these guys have to cut that off.  More likely LeBron is going to have to pass around the perimeter.  With only five seconds left and him having taken at least 2 of those seconds to figure out he can't move past the double team that's going to leave time for only one pass...two at the most.  If LeBron passes sideways then Martell or Jones follow the ball to cut off the potential shooter.  Hopefully the game ends with somebody besides King James hoisting a covered, perimeter shot.

I still have a fifth man and that's Lamarcus.  He's down near the basket as a safety valve.  If LeBron somehow gets past the double team he says a quick prayer and then moves to intercept.  Ditto if they somehow get a pass to a cutter because Martell or Jones blew it.  Other than that Lamarcus' job is to watch for the pass.  If they try an alley-oop to a baseline cutter he can cut that off before it even starts.  However if LeBron passes left or right Lamarcus immediately moves to cover any possible second pass on that side.  This will probably involve charging the corner to cover a potential corner three by someone lurking.

Also should LeBron pass Brandon stays with him while Travis immediately rotates down in the lane to cover the spot that Lamarcus just left.  If LeBron dives down the lane hoping to receive a return pass both Travis and Brandon should be there.  Otherwise Travis prevents any easy passes or cuts to the bucket.

In summation:

Brandon--Watch LeBron and stay with Lebron
Travis--Double LeBron and dive down to cover the lane if he passes
Martell--Play the right wing and follow any pass to a player on that side
Jones--Same as Martell except on the left wing
Lamarcus--Cover the middle initially but run hard to prevent any secondary pass or open shot on the side the ball's on once Webster or Jones have committed to their men.

One way to foil this that I can see is if the Cavs held a man down low to keep Lamarcus at home.  In that case we'd likely be risking two quick passes to the corner for a game-winning attempt.  However after two passes that shot is going to be rushed and at least it's not LeBron taking it.

Another way would be to put a really tall guy right in Martell or James' kitchen...a guy they couldn't prevent from getting the pass.  That would mean they were stuck guarding him because Lamarcus couldn't come over without leaving a pass to the middle free.  Again, though, time becomes an issue.  That big guy either has to shoot quickly or get the ball to someone else for a rushed shot.  And again it's not LeBron.

In the end I'd be the mostly likely scenario would be James dribbling back and firing the long ball.

Notice also that I don't have Joel in there either, just like Nate didn't.  He doesn't give me enough coverage and footspeed, nor the versatility to harass the different players he could be facing while playing goalie against superior numbers.  He could be of more help stopping a pure drive than Lamarcus would be but if they're getting down that deep with the ball something went horribly wrong with my scheme anyway and it's likely to be a foul at the very least.

It's easy to second-guess.  Had the results been the same as they were Sunday when Brandon was covering Joe Johnson we wouldn't be having this discussion.  But since we are I thought I'd take my shot.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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