Coaching Strategy – Late Game Situations (#2)

I want to thank all of the comments and tweets that I received yesterday and this morning regarding yesterday’s Late Game Situation (#1) post. I think that everyone brought an interesting perspective.

Since yesterday’s post was such a success, here is another situation I wanted to bring to your attention.


Team A is leading Team B by two points late in the game. Team A has committed 2 team fouls, while Team B has committed 5 team fouls. Team A has possession. Both teams have two timeouts remaining.

Team B commits two personal fouls to put Team A to the foul line for a one-and-one opportunity. Team A makes the first and misses the second, increasing their lead to three points with :28 seconds remaining.

With the clock running down, Team B makes a semi-contested 3pt shot at the top of the key to tie the game with :16 remaining.

Team A commits an offensive foul driving to the basket, which gives the ball to Team B with :6.3 seconds remaining. Team A now has 3 team fouls.

Team A calls a timeout.

Team B inbounds the ball from their defensive baseline, where they are fouled immediately by Team A (4th team foul) with :05 seconds remaining. Team B inbounds the ball from their defensive foul line extended, where they are fouled once again by Team A (5th team foul) with :3.6 seconds remaining.

Team B calls a timeout.

Team B inbounds the ball near half court. Team B gets a uncontested 3pt shot opportunity with :02 seconds remaining that misses. Team B rebounds the miss and scores, however it is ruled after the buzzer, which sends the game to overtime.

Fastforward to late in the overtime period, where Team A still has five team fouls and Team B now has 10 team fouls and both teams have a timeout.

Team A makes a jump shot to tie the game up with :27 seconds remaining. With :19.5 remaining Team B calls a timeout.

Team B inbounds the ball on their offensive foul line extended. Team B uses the clock and gets a 3pt field goal attempt with :04 seconds remaining. Player X on Team B offensive rebounds the miss and his tip-in attempt misses as well. However, he once again rebounds his miss and tips-in the game winner as time expires.

Team B wins by two points.


As I watched this scenario unfold, I would have done a few things different as a head coach for Team A.

First, Team A did fo a nice job to get one of its best free throw shooters on the line in regulation, when it was evident that Team B was trying to foul to them. The shooter who was at the line was the second best FT shooter at 81% (34-42).

However, once Team A’s shooter only made 1 of 2 free throws, and with four team fouls to give, Team A should have been more intent on fouling. I understand saving one foul because you do not want the official to put Team B on the line for a one-and-one on a 50/50 call. Even so, that would have given Team A three fouls to use to keep Team B from shooting a 3pt shot.

The second mistake Team A made was allowing a 3pt shot. Defenders should be giving no help and push up on their man to limit a game tying shot. Even if they make a layup, Team A could have called a timeout to get the ball inbounded to their best free throw shooter back on the line for another one-and-one. You cannot play defense (stunt and recover) the same way in this situation. Period.

Team A did use their fouls effectively after committing the offensive foul, however, they still gave Team B a good look and offensive rebound at the end of regulation (which barely was after the buzzer).

Unbelievably, Team A committed no fouls in the overtime session so they still had one to give. With :19.5 remaining when you know the opponent is going to run the clock down, they had the opportunity to foul several times to force Team B to inbound the ball with under :05 seconds. This would have only given Team A six team fouls and would have forced Team B to execute a sideline-out-of-bounds play to win the game, by either making a field goal or getting to the foul line and converting at least one attempt.

Even more baffling is that Team A gave up a similar offensive rebound (actually two of them) and two tip-in opportunities.

Although I understand not fouling, I disagree with it personally. Having a foul to give does no good when you are talking to your team in the locker room after a heartbreaking loss.


Please comment below and give your take on this late game scenario and how you would have coached it. I appreciate all of your responses and feedback. I have done my best to explain the situation, but if there are any other factors that would impact your decision, I will be happy to retrieve them for you.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


7 comments on “Coaching Strategy – Late Game Situations (#2)

  1. Rob Wilson says:

    I agree with the fouling thing, and definitely agree with pushing out on the 3 point line. No excuse for giving up a 3 in that situation

  2. cyfulton1 says:

    With :28 sec left & fouls 2 give, we would pressure them to run them off the 3 pt. Line. No help def. We would look to foul if backs are turned & they’re behind 3 pt line. No 3’s and no overtime! Have to practice & have a key for that defense so we know to run them off line.

  3. Richard "Ziggy" Ziegler says:

    This game should have ended with 28 sec remaining! Especially when the team and the shooter are known to hit threes! You have to foul in the end and make them in bound the ball at the end. The three should have never gone off with 16 sec. left in the game. Also in overtime during the timeouts you have to stress to your players. BOX OUT!!!!

  4. Eric Salsbury says:

    I have always thought that fouling was a bit of a risky proposition. I definitely get it, but think it depends on your kids and their hoops IQs. The two risks here are the possibility of an intentional foul call and the possibility of a kid throwing one up as they are fouled. Not saying I wouldn’t foul, just thinking it would depend on your players.

    I definitely agree that you cannot play help D. Your kids have to stay man up in this situation and know that they have to box out. Cannot allow an offensive board under any circumstance. This is a situation that should be practiced in terms of defending and rebounding.

    • CoachDeSalvo says:


      I agree you have to practice fouling at the right time, distance and before the dribbler becomes a shooter. All very important.

      I think if you do these things correctly you greatly minimize the possibility of intentional foul or fouling while in the act of shooting.

      The help defense, I think we both agree, is non-negotiable.

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