FanPost

Strategy Question - End of Game

Here is a question for people with more basketball expertise than I (which is everyone) about end of game strategy, though I'll admit my examples are a number of years old.

Two games I recall watching a number of years ago involved the last minutes of the game where the Trail Blazers had a small lead and the other team had resorted to fouling. In both cases, a key player of the other team was in foul trouble.

Example #1: Phoenix Suns. Years ago, when they were good and Jason Richardson was a scourge to the Blazers, I recall a game where the Blazers had a lead in the closing minutes, the Suns were fouling, and Jason Richardson had not only been going to town (scoring 30-40 points), but had 4 fouls. The ball was never thrown to his man, and he ended the game without having fouled out.

Example #2: Oklahoma City Thunder. More recently, but still years ago, the Trail Blazers were holding on to a lead against the Thunder in the closing minutes, the Thunder were fouling, and Russell Westbrook had 5 fouls. Again, the ball was not thrown to his man and he finished the game without fouling out.

In both examples, the Blazers did go on to win the game, but it seems to me, that if a key player on the other team is in foul trouble, and they are trying to foul as quickly as possible, would it not make sense to throw the ball to that guy's man and try to get him to foul out of the game? I wondered why the Blazers did not do this.

I know that you want the ball in the hands of the best free throw shooter and the best ball handlers, and may want to avoid throwing the ball near opposing players who are better at stealing the ball. However, a comeback is a lot harder when the star, or a guy having a great night, is out of the game. Also, if the other team is able to somehow tie the game, a Thunder without Westbrook or a Suns (in the incarnation they were back then) without Richardson is going to be a lot easier to beat in overtime than those teams with them. Lastly, a star in foul trouble might hesitate more to foul, draining more valuable seconds off the clock.

If it were me, I'd take the risk and get a star in foul trouble out of the game. Is this a strategy that no one has thought of (highly unlikely) or is the risk of steals, the FT% differential, and other considerations that much more important?

Thanks in advance.

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