Giving away upcoming plays to an opponent is no new thing in the NBA. Larry Bird used to famously do it all the time, even if the play in question was merely “we’re getting it to Larry and getting the [bleep] out of the way.” In a copycat league that often devolves into pick and roll or isolation basketball in the waning seconds of close contests, most in the arena know what’s coming next with the clock ticking down and the offensive team in possession of a standout stud of a scorer and/or passer. So it’s not the biggest shocker when the ball is placed in that All-Star’s hands, allowing him to make the Great Final Decision.
Even if that Great Final Decision is to pass the rock to the starting center, standing 23 feet away from the basket and behind the three-point line.
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert swears that LeBron James tipped him off in a half-joking fashion near the end of Wednesday’s 93-90 Pacers win over Miami. LeBron and his Heat were lining up to execute with 12.9 seconds left on the clock, down two, and we’ll just let Roy and Pacers.com’s Scott Agness take over from here:
“I asked him straight up right before the play. I was like, ‘You gonna pass to Bosh?” And he said if I’m in the paint he will. We were just joking around. I thought he was going to the basket and I tried to help my teammate out and those guys covered for me.”
If you’ll recall, Hibbert was charged with minding Bosh on the final possession, and it was both Hibbert’s presence that influenced LeBron to give up the ball, and Hibbert’s absence that left Bosh open for a brief second to toss off what could have been a game-winning shot. George Hill closed off on C.B., though, and the shot was off – a look that both LeBron, Bosh, and the Heat coaching staff proclaimed they had absolutely no issue with taking again and again in future similar situations following Game 5.
You can’t blame them. Though there has been some hand-wringing as to whether LeBron should have betrayed his intelligence and passed on making the smart basketball play in favor of a hero move, getting a good look in the paint over Hibbert’s outstretched arms – especially knowing that the referees are going to swallow the whistle in this instance – is probably not the best idea. On top of that, James would be tossing in a two-pointer for the tie; and even in the playoffs you usually want to go for the win on the road, and get the hell out of dodge as LeBron put it post game, “win, lose or draw.”
(Except a “draw” would mean James making a two-pointer and forcing overtime but, hey, let’s just keep going with the western theme, here, pard’nah.)
As for James “giving away” the final play? There was no final play.
That’s not to dismiss Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s talents or the movement away from the ball in Miami’s last big offensive possession, but everyone knew what the angle was. It would involve LeBron acting as a destroyer of worlds, and Bosh (as he has all series, whether the shots go in) acting as a destroyer of basketball orthodoxy, settling in back of the three-point line in order to drive the Indiana defense (whether it’s Hibbert or big forward David West guarding him) batty.
Roy Hibbert didn’t need LeBron James to confirm that he’d be looking for Bosh if Hibbert slid over to help. And considering how Roy sometimes gets in his own head too much, it’s probably the best move for LeBron to make the cerebral big guy over-think things, like telling a slumping batter what pitch is coming next.
All the more intrigue, as these teams set up on Friday to play each other for the 30th time in two and a half years.
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