Friday, June 12th, 2009 at 10:00 am  |  48 responses

Up by 3, to Foul or Not to Foul?

by Marcel Mutoni

That’s the question Stan Van Gundy and his coaching staff had to answer as they clung to a three-point lead late in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Van Gundy picked the wrong answer, as he elected not to foul the Lakers on the inbound play, and the rest as they say, is history.

Derek Fisher calmly dribbled up the floor, raised up for the game-tying three, and added yet another chapter to his postseason legend.

After the devastating loss, Orlando’s head coach was grilled by the assembled media, and tried to explain why he didn’t order his team to foul the Lakers in that situation. From the Orlando Sentinel:

“We thought 11 seconds was too early, especially the way we were shooting free throws,” Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “In retrospect, we gave [Fisher] too much space to shoot the ball. We played like we were trying to protect a layup. We just didn’t play Derek Fisher.”

“Yes, I regret it now [not fouling]. … That play will haunt me forever.”

Well, at least he’s self-aware. So, he’s got that going for him.

Of course, the decision not to foul is not the sole reason Orlando is now staring down a virtually insurmountable 3-1 hole…their horrendous free throw shooting (they missed 15 on the night), 19 turnovers, and defensive lapses in the closing moments played equally big roles.

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  • http://www.yamahyouth.com Gerwin

    Always easy to say things afterward….

  • Ken

    For the love of god foul!

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    “Self-aware” there’s a good consolation prize. Now pack your bags and don’t let the door hit your wide load on the way out. +bonus repost: KB maybe one day you’ll go to the wiz and get a heart – but for now I guess a ring is what you’d prefer.

  • http://twitter.com/NotebookNick thesubwayconnection

    I don’t even see why they would question this. Especially when they have decent free throw shooters outside of Dwight.

  • mlaw

    Clearly you foul in that situation. If they put them at the line, you’re still up 1 with the ball in your possession. The Stan Van Dummy saga continues.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    How about just d-ing up Fish?

  • vtrobot

    This series could very easily be 3-1 in the Magic’s favor right now. They’ve been doing a lot of dumb things recently. Missing all of those free throws is unacceptable. They should probably stop daring Ariza to shoot. That dude is balling. I hated when the Knickerbockers gave him up. Champion Sasha Vujacic. Sort of reminds me of Champion Antoine Walker.

  • riggs

    how bout bring rafer in who was giving derek fisher trouble?

  • http://ibuzzunlimited.com T Williams

    Jameer too short, Where’s Rafer? Fisher was not playing well but Phil stuck with him. What’s up with Mr. Panic

  • http://sfjklf.com Jukai

    Guess I’m the only dude here who doesn’t blame Stan Van Gundy for not fouling. There’s eleven seconds left. You foul with five or so fouls left. They foul with eleven seconds left, the guy nicks it to one, the Lakers foul with nine seconds left and someone misses a free throw… the Lakers now have nine seconds to get a two point shot! Eleven seconds is too much time.

  • http://nba.com Reflex

    I don’t even think this is debatable question, worst worst case scenario, Fish has to shoot & make 3 free throws to take you to OT while you get x sconds or so to close it out in regulation, it’s not rocket science! Anyhoo, Go Lakers!

  • The D Train

    i’ll do you guys one better…where the f()ck was Courtney Lee on the Fisher 3 at the end of regulation? He’s a much taller and better defender than Nelson. Or maybe Nelson could have stepped up and given Fisher just a little less room. Horrible, horrible play. The lack of general basketball intelligence, coupled with the inability to hit unguarded 15 foot “freebies” cost the Magic. Now we can all crown King Kobe’s a$$. HE WAS WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS!!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    Fortunately Jukai we know you’re a jokester – even you can’t really be that dopey.

  • SWIFTboy

    Not to mention with the way they call continuation these days, you basically can hear a whistle, THEN decide to shoot, and it still counts as in the act.
    Good chance your either sending Fisher to the line for three shots he makes more often than the pull-up-hand-in-face one he actually did make, OR you give up a 4 point play and lose the game right then and there.
    Also, if Jameer meets him at the line as people are saying, Fisher could have easily moved to either side of the defender, and still been behind the three point line, with more space than he had onthe shot he made.
    Basically, Fisher just made a tough, low percentage shot in a clutch moment.

  • kobesbestfriend

    it wouldnt matter if they fouled or not cuz the magic still woulda found a way 2 lose! BAD COACHING + OVERATED PLAYERS = A 4TH RING FOR DFISH AND MAMBA

  • JoeMaMa

    You don’t have to foul. You just have to be AWARE and DON’T GIVE A 3 PT SHOT!!!! Why was Nelson behind the line? Hands halfway down? On a guy who’s been known to take those? In a situation that DEMANDED a 3???
    Don’t regret not fouling, SVG. Regret not coaching.

  • MD

    Wud have been stupid to foul with that much time on the clock you basicly make it a best of 4 free throw contest which the lakers would likely have won. Alls they had to do is not give up a three its just bad D nuffin more. I dislike SVG but this was not his fault

  • The D Train

    i’d like to see what the odds are of you losing a game when you are up 3 points, with the ball, and 11 seconds left in the game. Dwight missing 2 free-throws started the ball rolling. Nelson’s horrible “defense” was just the icing on the sh1t-cake.

  • http://Nicekicks.com MeloMan22

    I’m with Jukai, fouling in that situation ruins the excitement of the game. all they really needed to do was run Dfish off the three point line. THAT was their mistake, not fouling was not

  • The D Train

    worst-case scenario if you don’t foul: Nelson steps out on the three, allowing Fish to drive in unmolested. there was about 4.5 seconds left when he hit the 3, so take off another second or so if he drives, and you leave only a bit less than 3 secs on the clock with LA down one still. the bottom line is that a team that closes out a must-win game at home in that fashion absolutely DOES NOT deserve to win the title. OT was a mere formality after that collapse.

  • http://web.mac.com/roaringred bbaby

    SVG is an awful coach. He would be better fit as Ron Jeremy’s stunt double at the end of the year. They just needed to step up on Fisher.

  • http://sfjklf.com Jukai

    Listen to the D Train guys. He’s smart.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    As I watched the game last night, as well as in game 2, I said to myself, this team (Magic) can match up well with any team in the league but are not “ready for prime time” because they lose focus at different points in the game. You can’t do that at this stage. They may (or may not) get it after what is going to be a heart breaker Saturday. Look for them to be there again, maybe even next year.

  • http://thesportsdiaryonline.blogspot.com Roy

    Co-sign Jukai. SVG didn’t press the right buttons in those dying seconds IMO. :)

  • diaper rash

    in that situation, they should foul. i appreciate when coaches decide not to foul though. more exciting this way. i’d like it better if instead of two free throws, a team should get one free throw and retain possession if the other team commits a non-shooting foul while in the penalty.

  • Stan

    I wouldn’t blame SVG for not fouling at all, I mean this is the same guy who drew up that last play in game 2. Fisher just made a tough shot being 2 feet out of the 3-pt line and having Nelson jump at him. And after that, the magic still had 4 seconds to make a decent shot and Petrius did get a decent look at the basket. If Fish didn’t make that shot it would have been 2-2 and SVG would be praised for not fouling. The magic was also missing their freethrows so SVG didn’t go that route.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    how about keep the pg rotation consistent? the only game the magic won, rafer was the closer for the second half. every game they lost, it was jameer. does SVG flip a coin to see which pg should play the second half? also, i really don’t think rafer would’ve given fish that much room to shoot the 3. lastly, it helps if turk didnt miss 3 free throws down the stretch.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Actually, not fouling was the SMART decision, considering the Magic were clunking freethrows left right and center. It wasn’t JVG’s fault.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign davidR: Message to SVG: PUT SKIP IN THE D@MN GAME.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    I want to see a Rockets vs. Cavaliers finals.

  • al

    always foul. always.

    No wanting to harm anybody here, but in Europe they would have fouled always, no coach would have allowed that. It is not that they are better over here, it is that they are on top of the game, intervene much more than in the NBA. In fact, I think in the NCAA they would have fouled as well. In my opinion, the NBA is such a star-player kingdom that coaches tend to lean back a bit too much

    Even the trend around here now is, if you go up by 2 and the other team has time enough (more than 8 secs), you should foul, allow the FTs and have enough time to have a last good shot.

  • wilz

    whos to say fouling woulda worked??? nobody was shotting free throws properly and they had trouble getting the ball in.

    secenario: they foul. up by one, 1. ball gets stolen on inbounds play or 2. they miss one of 2, or even make both, and still Derek Fisher could have had time to hit the 3.

    if jameer plays good D nobody asks..

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Okay, WHY would they foul? I understand that they want to eliminate chances of a 3 pointer, but there was still what, 14 seconds left? Your job as a team up by 3 with 14 seconds left is to RUN THE CLOCK, not stop time with a quick foul.
    Let’s say they do foul. The Lakers hit both freethrows. Then what? The Lakers foul too, obviously. Only problem is… The Magic were turrrible at the line last night. WHY risk missing 1 or even 2 freethrows, giving the Lakers the ball being down only 2, while STOPPING TIMEÉ
    Not fouling was NOT the problem. Not crowding the 3 point line was.

  • tealish

    No problem with not fouling. When Fish got the ball with 8 seconds left, he was facing the hood from then on. Fouling would’ve risked 3 FT’s. Not fouling is definitely not the issue here. The issue is the basketball IQ

  • tealish

    No problem with not fouling. When Fish got the ball with 8 seconds left, he was facing the hood from then on. Fouling would’ve risked 3 FT’s. Not fouling is definitely not the issue here. The issue is the lack of basketball IQ by Jameer, which astounds both JVG and I.
    Mr Nelson: I know getting blown by for a layup for DFISH may seem like an embarrassing play; but trust me — I’m pretty sure you force the guy off the line if you’re up 3 with 4 ticks left. Ugh, this is frustrating because this series should be knotted up right now and at this point, it’s all but over.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    @ tealish: A little less turnovers, a little better free throw shooting, and the Magic could have been UP 3-1. They need to capitalize on the freebees they’re given.

  • ab_40

    FOUL… basketball is tactics too this ain’t the streets if you can win a game that way, DO IT. and who starts pressing when they’re up 3? instead defende the trhee point line c’mon now even I know that. Ron Jeremy needs some help

  • what

    could have fouled, but SVG probably didn’t tell Nelson to back up and let Fisher shoot, either…

  • t2c.wah

    In Europe at any level it’s a foul… no brainer!
    Then you’ve got the free throw contest…
    The end of close games are less spectacular but it’s the best way to ensure your victory.
    Maybe Ron Jeremy was on PANIC mode!

  • underdog

    I don’t know. At the end of game 3 the Lakers missed like four three pointers in a row. Plus it’s tougher to score a clutch three pointer than three free throws – well except for Odom. Fisher shot 0/5 behind the arch before his first triple, so maybe I wouldn’t foul him either. So it was a though decision. I don’t blame neither SVG nor Nelson.

  • t2c.wah

    Eh underdog it’s not 3 free throws but only 2!
    Foul him before he attempts the 3pts shoot!
    What I mean is that in Europe, fouling in this case is an automatic thing, it’s almost cultural…
    Players with a lil’ B-ball IQ of any age do it even without coach advice.
    Maybe it’s because of the FIBA rules with so many less time outs…

  • RedRum

    Its one of those things that you can only tell if it is right or wrong by the outcome… both decisions made sense. If Fisher missed SVG would be considered as a genius for looking at his team and the other team and making the right decision. To be fair, the “correct” play is to sub the team with good free throw shooters (i.e. take DH out…) and foul. I am sure SVG knows that, but Magic did not make it easy for their coach, shooting so badly their FTs.

  • Michael B.

    Foul when he crosses half court! there were 11 seconds left.. there would be about 8 after he shot his throws..and who is to say that Fish hits both? inbound and shoot your throws with 6 left or if you have alston and nelson in the game you may be able to inbound and make a quick second pass before you are fouled to run more clock …I would rather risk my guy vs their guy at the line than giving them a 3 chance to tie…

  • http://www.myspace.com/mcnarrative Kieran

    Feels like Orlando are losing this series rather than the Lakers winning. Been pretty disappointed with it all.

  • J-Bird

    The Magic are very un-clutch. It’s really sad to watch them blow these games.

  • W Reid Whitaker

    I have never been an advocate of letting the losing team shoot with the clock stopped, no matter what. I also thought LA was crazy to bring the ball in full court !!!!

  • The D Train

    It’s odd to me to see people defending SVG. Now i say this as an anti-Laker fan, so i’m speaking as someone who wants Orlando to do the right thing. Once again, where the f()ck was Courtney Lee? Nelson has been out 4+ mos, and now he’s playing over 20 mins a game without the proper conditioning it takes to play at the HIGHEST level. So the problem wasn’t “to foul, or not to foul”, as much as it was, “who plays D for you, when all you have to do is play D to win the game”? I like Stan and Orlando for what they’ve accomplished in this post-season, but not having Lee in there (or even Rafer as a taller, fresher defender to guard Fisher) was the fatal mistake. If you make your bones as a defensive team, you don’t p()ssy it up and foul at the end. You play up-in-your-grill/prevent D and if Fish or Kobe hits a LBJ-type three, you live with it. You do not live with a wide open/hardly contested pull-up three from a guy who does nothing else but hit one-to-two of those every two-to-three years.

  • Justin

    Of course he shouldn’t have had them foul. He was right, there was still a lot of time left. The mistake he made was not having Alston in the game to guard Fish, and tell him to make sure he was in his chest so as not to get that great a look. Who knows? Maybe Fish hits the shot anyway. He’s done it before