Coaching Strategy – Late Game Situation (#4)

Late Game Situation (#3) set the blog’s all-time high for visits on the blog, recording almost 300 in one day! Thank you for all your contributions. I encourage all of you to leave a response with any feedback. Your sharing will help us all develop.

So without further ado…


Team A has one time out remaining and has only committed five team fouls. Team B has two timeouts and has committed seven team fouls. Team A is down three points and defensive rebounds the ball with 2:00 remaining in the contest.

Team A gets to the rim and coverts the “And 1” to tie the game up with 1:37 remaining.

While running offense (drive and kick action), Team B turns the ball over with 1:15 remaining.

A player for Team A rebounds the ball and goes coast-to-coast, drawing a two-shot foul with 1:10 remaining. The 86% free throw shooter, misses the first free throw attempt and converts the second free throw attempt, giving Team A a one-point lead.

Team A does not press. Team B inbounds the ball and with 57.3 seconds in the game (and 24 seconds on the shot clock), Team B hits a flare screen 3pt shot to give Team B a two-point lead.

Team A responds by attacking the rim immediately but the layup attempt is blocked out-of-bounds with 46.3 seconds remaining in the game (24 seconds on the shot clock).

Upon inbounds the ball, Team A commits a travelling violation trying to attack the rim with 41.9 seconds left in the game and a 6.9 second differential in the shot clock.

Team B inbounds the ball from their defensive baseline. Team A elects not to press. Team B takes a shot attacking the rim with 15.4 seconds remaining (9 seconds on shot clock).

Team A rebounds the ball, pitches it ahead and attacks the rim. Team A is fouled with 8.7 seconds remaining. Team B calls a timeout to ice the shooter. Team B now has one timeout remaining.

Team A misses the first free throw attempt and makes the second, to make it a one-point game. Team A then takes its last timeout.

Team B inbounds the ball. Team A face guards and switches all screens to pressure the inbound pass. Team A fouls Team B with 5.1 seconds left, this however, is only their 6th team foul.

Team B calls its last timeout.

Team B inbounds the ball on their defensive baseline and is fouled by Team A with 4.7 remaining. Team B now goes to the far court to shoot a one-and-one, still up by one point.

Team B misses the front end of the one-and-one. Team A pushes the ball and takes a runner from 24 feet as time expires. The shot misses and Team B wins by one point.


All-in-all, I like how these last two minutes played out. Both teams attacked the rim when they could and Team B made a critical uncontested 3pt shot that was a set play.

Obviously if Team A makes another free throw or two, they would have had a chance to win outright. That, of course, was not the case.

Instead Team A had to take a 24 foot 3pt runner as time expired. This was not a bad shot considering they had to go the length of the floor in 4.7 seconds. However, if Team A had not wasted a critical 3.6 seconds on the inbounds pass with 8.7 seconds remaining, they may have had a chance to win the game. If this time was not wasted, Team A may have been able to get one or two more dribbles which may have allowed them to get to the rim for a layup or fouled on the last shot attempt.

The only other way Team A could have saved some time was if they had fouled a little earlier so they did not have to waste four seconds (8.7 seconds to 4.7 seconds) fouling.

One other portion of this situation that is up for debate is Team B taking a timeout with 5.1 seconds left. Obviously Team B was concerned with getting the ball inbounded and wanted to be organized. The only downside to doing so gave Team A a chance to talk strategy on based upon what was going to happen at the free throw line. I am sure that Team B’s coaching staff was also speaking with their players and instructing them what to do if their player had made one or both of the free throws.

I did like Team A’s effort to go two-for-one, however, they travelled with 41.9 seconds left. Despite the poor execution going early in the shot cloack and trying to get a two-for-one was the right play because it was done going to the rim and it would have given them the ball back late in the game.

Another subtle coaching move occurred at the foul line.  Team B iced Team A’s shooter with 8.7 seconds left. Team B also rearranged some personnel on the lane line before the shooter received the ball from the official to make the shooter wait even more. A great stall tactic.

All-in-all, I thought it was well played by both sides.


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


8 comments on “Coaching Strategy – Late Game Situation (#4)

  1. Rob Wilson says:

    what are your thoughts on pressing in these situations? I think it may make it a little more difficult for the teams to get the ball inbounds with less than a minute to go, even if you just put someone on the ball. I think that would help save a few seconds while fouling giving a few more seconds on the back end. What are your thoughts on this?

  2. Great analysis Bert! I pretty much agree with all your points.

    One thing that stood out to me was Team B taking a shot with 9 seconds on the shot clock (15.4 on the game clock) when they were up by 2. I feel like they should start their action (ex: high P&R) at about 7-8 seconds left on the shot clock. When you’re up by 2 with such a slim difference in the shot/game clock, I think you want to milk it down as much as possible. Even if you don’t get a great look or make a basket, you’re minimizing the time left for Team A to get a good look. 15.4 seconds is an eternity compared to 6-8 seconds for Team A if they milk the shot clock down.

    I agree the 2 for 1 was a great decision. Even though it seems like a no-brainer to me, I feel as if many coaches neglect to understand the potential importance of 2 for 1s. I also feel like teams often wait way too long to foul when they are down in late game situations. It is so crucial to elongate the game if you’re losing in the final minute. The 4 seconds that Team A wasted to foul is huge and could have allowed them to at least get in the paint to make a play on their last possession.

    Again, great work Bert. I really enjoy these posts!

    • CoachDeSalvo says:


      I kind of thought the same thing. However, in that situation, I would actually like to go right around seven seconds so if I miss I can offensive rebound it. However, the way the game played out the driver for Team B got there early and at that point he kind of had to shoot it or he may not get another opportunity.

      I do agree with you though that it puts you in a bind in defensive transition and allows your opponent lots more time.

      2 for 1 is a must! The extra possession is huge.

      • I would think that you can assume that your miss would hit the rim, though, which would then reset the shot clock and still give you a chance to offensive rebound, right (then Team A would have to foul immediately if Team B got the Off. Reb.)? Even if it doesn’t hit the rim and there’s a shot clock violation, it still gives the offense 6.9 seconds to go the length of the floor (in a dead ball situation) to score as opposed to the 15.4 where they have enough time to try and score (and ultimately miss) and then foul to get yet another chance assuming a FT miss.

        I just don’t think the driver for Team B should even be put in the situation to “get there early.” Pull the ball out and run a High P&R with 7 seconds to go on the shot clock (like you said) with shooters spaced out and get the best shot possible. Even if you can’t get a good shot, you’re milking very valuable time off the clock for Team A to score.

        I realize I’m nitpicking here, but I think if that would’ve happened Team B would have eliminated the extra chance that Team A received to tie/win the game.

      • CoachDeSalvo says:


        You are right. I was getting my situations mixed up 🙂 To clarify, I would only go around seven seconds if I was down and needed to offensive rebound and/or foul again if I missed.

        As the team that is up (Team B is up), Team B should use as most of the clock as they can. I do agree with you that 15.4 is and eternity.

        I do think though that Team B needs to get a quality look and do their best to score. If this means not using all the clock so be it. For me it is like playing to win instead of playing not to lose…As a coach, if you are concerned more about using all of the shot clock then you may not get the best available shot. I would rather get a higher percentage shot then use all of the shot clock and not get a quality look.

  3. cyfulton1 says:

    My 1 thought: with 8.7 sec left, team A missed the 1st FT & will be down 1 if they make the 2nd, which they did. I would not have called my last TO at that point. When we missed the 1st, we would have keyed our “BLACK” def which is “immediately steal or foul” in 1/2 sec. I would want to save my last TO in case we needed it, which they did.
    With 4.7 left, they would have had a TO left to set up a play which they have practiced. With 4 sec left, they could have been told to outlet it to get closer. Even with 2/3 sec, they could run a decent SLOB play for a good shot.

    • CoachDeSalvo says:

      Coach, I tend to agree with you regarding saving the timeout for later. I think that you can use the time between FT shots and after you give the foul to communicate with your team. Especially with having one foul to give in between.

      Thank you for the insight.

      This is an important comment regarding this particular late game situation.

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