Suns coach Jay Triano exploits little-known rule to win game on 'secret' play

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Suns center <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3512/" data-ylk="slk:Tyson Chandler">Tyson Chandler</a> dunks the winning shot against the Grizzlies. (AP)
Suns center Tyson Chandler dunks the winning shot against the Grizzlies. (AP)

Phoenix Suns coach Jay Triano let the world in on his secret at long last.

With 0.6 seconds remaining and his team tied with the Memphis Grizzlies, Triano finally found the perfect opportunity to unleash a play he’s kept up his sleeve for some 15 years now, and it worked to perfection. Suns forward Dragan Bender lobbed a perfect inbound pass toward the rim, over the outstretched arms of Grizzlies big man Brandan Wright and into the awaiting hands of Phoenix center Tyson Chandler, who promptly threw down the game-winning alley-oop dunk with time to spare.

As the rest of the arena wondered whether Chandler’s dunk would be ruled goaltending, since he corralled the ball over the cylinder, Triano was completely confident he had scripted the perfect play.

“I was trying to create a play where you could score with like three-tenths of a second or something, and I just thought tonight was a good time to do it,” Triano told reporters after the game. “I put it on about two or three days after I took over the job here, and it’s a rule a lot of people don’t know. You cannot goaltend a ball that isn’t going to count, so I told our guys, ‘Shoot the ball in the basket, and all Tyson has to do is touch it on the way down or grab the rim and have it hit your knuckle and go in.’

“I asked the officials when they come and do their clinics and seminars with the coaches. I asked them that 15 years ago when I was in Toronto. I asked them about it, and they had to go back and look at it. I’ve tried to keep it a secret, and it’s not a secret anymore.”

The lob pass with a fraction of a second left on the clock isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it’s the idea that you can essentially goaltend a shot from out of bounds to score that took everybody by surprise. Of course, Bender has to throw the perfect pass from 30 feet out, and Chandler has to get to the ball.

When Triano first installed the play he calls “Rim” in Phoenix, even his own players didn’t believe it.

“What’s crazy about that play is that I didn’t know that was the rule. We went over it one day in practice, and I thought coach was crazy,” Suns star Devin Booker said, according to “I thought it was some overseas rule. [Triano] said he looked it up in the rule book and said if you shoot it from out of bounds and if it’s going in, your team can touch it so it sounds more like a 0.2 or 0.3 seconds left play, but it worked well for us tonight.”

The current rulebook doesn’t specifically cover the rule Triano exploited, although another version might have at some point. After all, he’s been coaching ever since he retired as an international player in 1988. This is probably why he’s kept the play so secretive over the years, and why he had to make sure the referees working Monday night’s game were up to speed on the fact it was not goaltending.

“I told the one official, ‘You know that you can’t goaltend that,’ ” Triano told the media afterward, via The Arizona Republic. “He was like, ‘I know, I know.’ I think they were probably looking to see if Tyson touched the ball because it’s a violation if it goes straight in and he doesn’t get a piece of it.”

The victory marked No. 100 in Triano’s NBA head coaching career, and nobody will forget it.

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