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Poll: Run the Clock or Run the Offense?

Last night, Dave wrote...

Because we had a decision here, with 2:20 left and Portland up three, that I wasn't fond of. Portland went into the delay game, playing a 1-4 offense with Brandon dribbling out most of the clock before initiating a play. Roy missed a jumper the first time but Aldridge rebounded and kicked it out and the Blazers reset...into the same offense. Howard got a jumper on the second attempt and again Aldridge rebounded and kicked out so Portland could reset...into the same offense. The third try ended in a Bayless three which also missed and Memphis had the ball back. Portland had taken 1:24 off of the clock but hadn't scored a point. Obviously this was a planned decision, likely from the bench, possibly called by Roy I suppose.

I can understand the philosophical argument here. The fewer possessions you give the opponent the fewer attempts they're going to have to make up the difference. But in a one-possession game with over 2 minutes left it doesn't make sense to me. First you've taken yourself out of your own offense which has been performing admirably to this point. Second you've sapped your energy, trying not to lose the game rather than win it. Third, the Grizzlies don't need or want much time to score anyway. You could milk them down to the last 10 seconds of the game and they'd still have a great chance. The key to beating them in that situation is points, not time. (I don't like this decision against any opponent, but especially not one like this.) Most importantly of all, in a one-possession game you don't know who you're taking opportunities from by stalling the clock away. If they hit a three on the next possession it's a whole new situation. It's even worse if they hit on consecutive trips. At that point you're down 1 and you need the time and the extra attempts. I can understand if you're up 6 or more. I can understand if you're down to one possession a side. But this decision really didn't make sense to me in this situation.

This morning, TrueHoop's Henry Abbott similarly called for a more-active late-game approach (but for slightly different reasons)...

NBA coaches like Nate McMillan are risk averse, and understandably so. The idea is that when your star is being guarded by just one guy far from the hoop, he'll just about never turn the ball over.

But, if you think like I do, say a little cheer for O.J. Mayo, who was a bona fide stud at both ends of the floor in crunch time last night. Not only did he maintain perfect poise scoring on the break and on the free throw line, but he also rejected the status quo. He simply did not accept that Roy, holding the ball, would not cough it up. Mayo got low and springy, and made himself into the best kind of pest. He had been doing that throughout the final minutes. With just under 22 seconds left, and the game tied, it paid off. Roy was (what else) standing still when Mayo flashed out an arm and poked the ball high into the air. In the ensuing scramble, Roy fended off Mayo and was called for a foul.

Although the game was hardly over then, that proved to be the key moment... It was a victory for O.J. Mayo. It was a victory for the Grizzlies. And it was a victory for playing basketball in crunch time, instead of standing around.

As both writers point out, this is really a matter of basketball philosophy.

Nate McMillan coached it pretty much "by the book." The scenario that led to the defeat was, as I wrote, a near total meltdown and pretty much the only eventuality that would have led to a loss. One of those final five shots goes in? Nate plays it right. One less turnover? Nate plays it right. On the night, the Blazers shot 52.6% and committed only 9 turnovers. What were the odds that their shots and their ball control would fail them so emphatically when it mattered most? And, yet, it happened.

So, philosophically speaking, do you agree with Dave and Henry who argue that the correct (and more interesting!) philosophical play was to continue running the offense? Or do you agree with Nate McMIllan's approach and chalk up this one as an anomaly, a product of the worst possible late-game luck?

Vote in the poll and weigh in down in the comments.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter