Monday, April 21, 2014

Hack-a-Howard? Fouling Up Three? We Just Saw Both Strategies Work

Every NBA playoff series has had their first game done and we've seen five road teams win that game.  That may be the lead on the postseason thus far, but underneath it all is two unpopular strategies showing that they really work.

The first one is Hack-a-Bad-Foul-Shooter.  In this instance, it is Dwight Howard who got the treatment.  The Portland Trail Blazers trailed by 10 points with 4:30 left in the 4th quarter when they decided to Hack-a-Howard.  For the uninitiated, that means they just go ahead and foul Howard with the sole purpose to send him to the free throw line instead of having the Rockets run any offense.  Howard made his first two shots before missing his next four.  Eventually head coach Kevin McHale sat Howard to keep the Blazers from employing the strategy which means that the Rockets took one of their best players off the floor in crunch time.

The Blazers would go on an 11-0 run and send the game into overtime ... then eventually win the game.

In the postgame presser, Howard said that it "wasn't the reason [the Blazers] won the game."  Uh, yes it was.  It totally changed the game.  Not only did it nearly guarantee the Rockets suffered empty possessions, it kept the ball out of James Harden's hands, it disrupted all of Houston's offensive rhythm, it allowed the Blazers to rest a bit and plan their offensive attack and it eventually led the Rockets to put Howard on the bench.

It worked.  I know coaches don't like to do that and it is really bad for fans to watch but it worked.  Right now the Blazers stole a game in Houston and has the home court advantage.

Over in Los Angeles, another one of those coaching conundrums happened in the Clippers' loss to the Warriors.  The Warriors were up three points with mere seconds left in the game and the Clips with the ball.  Golden State head coach Mark Jackson elected to intentionally foul Chris Paul, making him shoot two free throws and denying him a chance at shooting a three pointer to tie the game.

Paul missed both free throws.  Even if he did hit both, the Warriors would still have the lead and the ball.

Golden State would hold on for the win.

I know coaches don't like to do either ploy.  They want to believe that playing defense and making the other team beat you is the way to go.  Well, your job is to win playoff games and they are so precious that no matter how you get them, you do it.

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