I live blogged this game and you can find that transcript here. I stopped writing at overtime wanting to save things for this post-game writeup. What an absolutely crazy game. We talked to McHale, Dragic, Chandler, and Lee all after the game, and I’m still not completely sure what happened. It seems clear though, from their comments, that the other players were not made aware that Dragic had six fouls. I won’t pin the loss on McHale, simply because it took a miraculous sequence to even have the team back in the game, but man…what a costly, costly blunder.To end the fourth, the Rockets played the free throw game, tying things up by going for the quick 2 when down 3, and then getting the bailout free throw miss by Collison. That set Dragic up to tie the game at the line.In overtime, things quickly got completely out of hand with the Pacers going up 101-95. But the Rockets miraculously came back, scoring five points in seven seconds, cutting the deficit to 1. After a Dragic pullup 3, the Rockets forced a turnover, trapping the ballhandler, leading to a Parsons steal and layup. Then came maybe the most crucial sequence of the game.Down 1 with 17 seconds remaining, the Rockets had to foul. But Goran Dragic had 5 fouls. Off a pick, Chandler Parsons switched off of Danny Granger, leaving Dragic alone with the star small forward. Dragic waited for a bit and then eventually fouled, apparently deciding he could not allow more time to come off the clock.Granger hit both free throws, putting the Pacers up 3. Chandler Parsons scored a driving layup to cut it to 1. Collison missed another free throw.Down just 2, Chandler Parsons was fouled on a drive by Granger and then missed a step back ‘3’ that would have won it.Thoughts:The mix-up with Dragic was the talk of the game afterwards. Why was he in the game? Why did they switch? Did the rest of the team know Dragic had 5?I understand the rationale for leaving Dragic in the game. He’s good at applying pressure and if you somehow came up with the steal, you’d want him on the court for the fastbreak opportunity. But no one could figure out why they switched.It seemed from the video [above] that the other players weren’t made aware of the Dragic foul situation. Had they been, they surely would not have allowed for Dragic to be alone with Granger. There should not have been a switch.
From the final possession, you saw how badly they needed Dragic. Parsons is great at slashing off the kickout, but an isolation creator he is not.
It was interesting that twice, late in this game, while down 3, the Rockets elected to go for the quick 2 and foul rather than take the 3. Both times it worked out for them. I feel that teams, or at least the Rockets, have a ridiculous conversion rate in these situations. Morey and company probably advise in favor of this approach due to the odds: with the defense geared against a 3, the probability of scoring a quick 2 is probably at its very highest. Many times, the defense concedes the hoop. Combine this with the probability of a missed free throw and those figures probably come out better than the chances of making a contested ‘3’. If you have enough time and don’t have a wide open 3, I think it’s best to take the route the Rockets took.
Another interesting note: the stat geek community preaches that there is a greater probability of scoring on a final possession by running a set team play rather than through running an ‘isolation’ play. That’s why I find it so interesting that the team ISOed Parsons on that final play. The mentality is absolutely fascinating. It’s almost like teams think, “we have to do an ISO now.” I wonder why this is. Is it because more passes increase the likelihood of a turnover? In any event, with 14 seconds left–an absolute eternity–I would have run a set play for Scola in the post, in that situation.
About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.