There's long been a difference of opinion among basketball folks on whether a coach whose team has a 3-point lead in the closing seconds of a game should instruct his players to intentionally foul the opposition, sending them to the line for two free throws, rather than play standard defense and try to prevent a potential game-tying shot. Lots of smart people have written about this, and while conclusions drawn from the research and decisions made about its practical applications have varied, one thing seems clear: If you're going to foul, you should probably make sure you don't let the person you foul actually attempt the potential game-tying 3-pointer.
With 5.2 seconds remaining and the Bucks leading the Orlando Magic 95-92, Magic guard Doron Lamb (an ex-Buck) triggered the inbounds pass to forward Tobias Harris (an ex-Buck), who squared up and dribbled on Daniels, then shook past him with a right-to-left crossover. At that point, Daniels — who had been huge for Milwaukee in the fourth, scoring nine points of 4 for 5 shooting to help give the Bucks a chance to win after trailing by as many as 14 early in the game and by four entering the final frame — whacked Harris to take a foul ... except Harris had already gotten into the air to launch his 3-ball, which went through with 1.9 seconds left to tie the game at 95. Not the best defensive possession, you might say.
The foul-up (professional writer!) punctuated a Keystone Cops-level close to regulation by the Bucks, who led by five and had the ball with 37 seconds remaining, only to earn a five-second violation on a failed inbounds attempt, give up two points on a goaltend and fail to re-extend the lead when Monta Ellis missed a pair of freebies before the Daniels mishap. As Boylan told Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, what resulted wasn't exactly the plan:
"It was under 5 seconds and we were trying to foul right there," said Bucks coach Jim Boylan. "They called a continuation.
"Everybody has all the stats and all the numbers (about late-game fouling when leading by three), but there's a human factor in these games, too. You have to take that into account. He (Daniels) got there a little late."
That put Harris at the line with a chance to win it in regulation, but he didn't — the sophomore has made 80 percent of his free throws since entering the NBA and 76.5 percent since coming to Orlando in the J.J. Redick deal at the Feb. 21 trade deadline, but missed the game-winner on Wednesday. Still, the defensive miscue did allow the Magic to send the game to overtime, where Orlando outscored Milwaukee 18-8 to take home a 113-103 win at Amway Arena on Wednesday in a game that was basically a stat-stuffing feast for late-season fantasy players and the kind of people who freak out about the Rising Stars Challenge. (Looking at you, Holly.)
Magic center Nikola Vucevic finished with 30 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, which made him one of four players to post a 30-20 this season (joining Joakim Noah, Zach Randolph and DeMarcus Cousins) and gave him four 20-20 games this year, two more than anyone else in the league (Noah's got two). Bucks rookie John Henson became just the fourth player since 1985 to score 17 points, grab 25 rebounds and block seven shots in a game — the other three were Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo and Shaquille O'Neal, who did it twice. And in addition to sending the game to OT, Haris finished with 30 points on 13 for 20 shooting, 19 rebounds and five assists, joining Shaq as just the second player since '85 to go for 30 and 19 before his 21st birthday. Yes, somebody's got to get stats on bad teams and in games where two less-than-stellar squads combine to miss 120 shots ... but still, those are pretty cool numbers.
Arguably less cool? Harris cementing his 30-point evening with an unnecessary runout dunk after the Bucks had missed a shot and given up the ghost down eight points with less than 12 seconds left:
The exclamation-point slam upset Harris' coach, Jacque Vaughn, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:
“Maybe I’m old-fashioned a little bit,” Vaughn said. “But I understand the moment and how hard he played to help us get to that position. It stares you in the face that he played for that team. But, at the same time, I totally believe there’s a respect for the game. But there’s also a youthful excitement about the game also.”
Afterward, asked to describe his motivation, Harris said, “That wasn’t personal at all. I have all the respect for the Milwaukee Bucks: the players on the team, the organization as a whole. As a young player, I haven’t really ever been in a game towards the end except for this year. When I got the rebound, I thought they were trying to foul, and I just pushed it out, and I didn’t see nobody behind me.
“I just decided, ‘I’m wide-open. I’m going to battle until the game is over.’ I just wanted them to know, ‘No way they could come back in this game.’ Needless to say, I probably didn’t look at the score of the game and see that we were up, so I apologize for that. And if anybody thought that was disrespectful, that’s not the type of player that I am. So you live and you learn from it.”
And, maybe next time, hit the freebie so graciously given you by the East's No. 8 seed so you can wrap things up before overtime, eliminating the issue all together.
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