October 4, 2015
On the Scale of Self-Assuredness (where 0 = Just Spitballin’ and 10 = I’ve Got It!), writer rates this idea as a 10.
I’ll get right to the point: I believe basketball (and I mean every league that facilitates organized basketball, including the NBA, NCAA, FIBA, WNBA, NBA D-League, NFHS, AAU, recreational/intramural/youth leagues, etc.) should abandon its game clock. By doing so, basketball would become the most fair and exciting sport played in this world.
Basketball’s game clock provides exactly one benefit to the sport (a significant benefit, at that) – it allows games to be played within a relatively predictable and narrow range of actual time (most NBA games last about 150 actual minutes; most NCAA games last about 120 actual minutes; etc.). I believe basketball can and should continue to reap this benefit by using a game clock for most of each game, but not for the entirety of any game.
After all, the game clock’s detrimental effects greatly outnumber and outweigh its single benefit. The game clock’s overbearing influence warps the style, quality, palatability, and overall excitement of play during the late stages of games, in the following ways:
- Compels trailing defense to commit repeated and deliberate fouls
- Compels leading (and in some cases, tied) offense to stall
- Forces trailing (and in many cases, tied) offense into sloppy/rushed/incomplete possessions, especially during a game’s final possession
- Compels trailing team to overtly concede game (whether by choosing not to commit a deliberate foul while on defense and/or choosing not to play at a frantic pace while on offense, etc.)
- Dampens celebrations and introduces anticlimax during clock reviews
- Adds unnecessary controversy through clock malfunctions and operator errors
- Reduces the likelihood of a late comeback (from a deficit of any size) and dampens arena atmosphere by making a late lead disproportionately safe
- Dampens arena atmosphere during late stages drawn out by frequent interruptions of play (deliberate fouls, timeouts with tangible incentives, clock reviews, etc.)
- Leads to an unceremonious ending, and in many cases, the complete absence of a signature moment to define even the most competitive and/or highly-anticipated game
- Necessitates overtime periods (which rarely match – and hardly ever exceed – the excitement provided by the end of regulation)
- Compels leading defense to allow uncontested lay-ups (out of fear of committing a clock-stopping foul)
- Compels teams to intentionally miss free throw attempts (whether trailing team hoping to maintain possession, or leading team hoping to disadvantage opponent with an unfavorable final shot)
- Warps final score and margin of victory (by precipitating such an unnatural style of play)
- Punishes trailing team for having committed too few fouls earlier in final period (whenever fouls-to-give remain at the time deliberate fouling begins)
- Poses dilemma for dominant team (about whether continuing to score exemplifies poor sportsmanship)
- Leads to greater number of foulouts (by players committing fouls deliberately and/or committing fouls in overtime)
- Compels teams to employ ridiculous and unsightly strategies (trailing offense rolling inbounds pass with game clock stopped, leading offense vacating lane during free throw attempts so as not to commit foul during possible rebound, leading offense throwing ball directly into air to exhaust final seconds, etc.)
And so, I propose that basketball implement a hybrid duration format (part-timed, part-untimed) for every game. An NBA game would look something like this (replacing the last three minutes of game-clock-focused play with a comparable amount of game-clock-free play):
- Timed portion: At least 45 minutes of timed play (this would include three complete, 12-minute quarters, and at least nine minutes of timed play in the fourth quarter; after this threshold is reached, play continues naturally until the next timeout/dead ball/made basket*)
- At this juncture, a target score would be set (equal to the leading team’s score plus seven)
- Untimed portion: Play would resume, without a game clock, until one team matches or exceeds the target score
For example, consider Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals. Suppose the Warriors called a timeout at the first opportunity to end the timed portion of the game, holding a 94-83 lead at the Cavaliers after 45+ minutes of timed play. At this juncture, the game clock would be abandoned, and the first team to reach 101 points would win the game.
An NCAA game would look something like this (replacing the last four minutes of game-clock-focused play with a comparable amount of game-clock-free play):
- Timed portion: At least 36 minutes of timed play (this would include a complete, 20-minute first half, and at least 16 minutes of timed play in the second half; after this threshold is reached, play continues naturally until the next timeout/dead ball/made basket*)
- At this juncture, a target score would be set (equal to the leading team’s score plus seven)
- Untimed portion: Play would resume, without a game clock, until one team matches or exceeds the target score
*The original version of this article called for a different method of transitioning from the timed portion of each game to the untimed portion.
For example, consider the 2015 NCAA Championship game. Suppose Duke called a timeout at the first opportunity to end the timed portion of the game, holding a 59-58 lead vs. Wisconsin after 36+ minutes of timed play. At this juncture, the game clock would be abandoned, and the first team to reach 66 points would be declared the national champion.
A number of factors could be adjusted if necessary, and variations could be used at different levels of play, but the idea is to abandon the game clock just before it compels teams to deviate from the basic objectives of the sport. This strikingly simple change would be strikingly sound, too. It would strengthen the game clock’s lone benefit, while eliminating or alleviating ALL of its aforementioned detrimental effects:
- Trailing defense would not need (or want) to commit repeated and deliberate fouls, and could instead play legitimate defense (hybrid format could also indirectly lead to elimination of Hack-a-Shaq fouls, because NBA, etc. could realistically commit to handling all deliberate fouls by the book – as intentional/flagrant fouls that provide no incentive for committing such fouls)
- Leading (or tied) offense would not stall, and would instead play assertively
- Trailing offense would never need (or want) to rush possessions, and could instead make its best attempt to score
- Trailing team would never concede game through style of play, and all on-court players would instead battle to the end
- Late-game clock reviews would never be necessary, and could never dampen end-of-game celebrations
- Late-game clock malfunctions and operator errors would never be possible, and could never add unnecessary controversy
- A legitimate late comeback would be proportionately likely, compelling more fans to remain present and engaged through the end of each game
- Late stages of game would proceed at a palatable pace, compelling more fans to remain present and engaged through the end of each game
- Every game would end with a made basket, ensuring it would have at least one signature moment to define it
- Every exciting game would be guaranteed an exciting finish, by eliminating the possibility of an anticlimactic overtime
- Leading defense would never intentionally allow uncontested lay-ups
- With appropriate rules modifications, neither team would ever need (or want) to intentionally miss a free throw attempt
- Usefulness of various statistics would be restored, including final score and margin of victory, by allowing a more familiar style of play to continue through the end of each game
- Trailing team would never be punished for committing too few fouls
- All scoring would be guilt-free
- Players would never foul out by committing a deliberate foul meant primarily to stop the clock and/or by committing a foul in overtime
- Teams would not need (or want) to employ overly-timid and/or underly-dignified strategies
I love basketball as much as the next fan, but cold hard facts reveal the necessity of a rules change. Consider data collected from every nationally-televised NBA game played during the 2014-2015 regular season and postseason, and data collected from every NCAA men’s basketball game televised on ESPNU during the 2014-2015 season, every 2015 NCAA Tournament game, and every 2015 NIT game. Overall, this includes data from 322 NBA games (and 36 overtime periods, for a total of 358 4th quarter/overtime periods) and 408 NCAA games (and 38 overtime periods, for a total of 446 2nd half/overtime periods).
Trailing NBA teams committed at least one deliberate foul in 156 of the 358 sampled 4th quarter/overtime periods, including Game 3 of the Western Conference Playoffs First Round, when the Trailblazers committed eight deliberate fouls against the Grizzlies in the final 1:09 to turn a six-point deficit (100-94) into…well…a six-point loss (115-109).
The effectiveness of this strategy can be categorized in the following ways:
- Counterproductive: fouling team ends same period with a deficit equal to or greater than its deficit at the time of the first deliberate foul; 125/156 (80.1%)
- Futile: fouling team ends same period with a deficit narrower than its original deficit, but still trailing (and losing, necessarily); 26/156 (16.7%)
- Partially Successful: fouling team ends same period in a tie with its opponent, forcing overtime (or an additional overtime); 5/156 (3.2%)
- Completely Successful: fouling team ends same period with the lead (and the win, necessarily); 0/156 (0.0%)
Trailing NCAA teams committed at least one deliberate foul in 256 of the 446 sampled 2nd half/overtime periods, including an especially silly instance with 15.4 seconds remaining in overtime of the January 10 Long Beach State/UC Davis game, when LBSU’s McKay LaSalle made a Superman dive near midcourt while pursuing UC Davis’s Darius Graham, nearly depantsing him! ESPNU broadcaster Tim Welsh perfectly (but unwittingly) summed up the ridiculousness of the situation: “To me it looks like he’s making a play on the ball. Now, Darius Graham’s pants come down. But I don’t know – he is diving to make a play at the ball in my opinion. Just because his shorts come down, I don’t think that should be a reason that’s a flagrant foul. That’s why (LBSU Head Coach) Dan Munson is hot. His player dove at the basketball and made contact with the player.” Um, yeah. Anyway, LBSU’s deliberate fouling turned a two-point deficit (67-65) into a six-point loss (73-67).
Most deliberate fouling sessions are similarly counterproductive. Overall:
- Counterproductive: 208/256 (81.25%)
- Futile: 23/256 (12.9%)
- Partially Successful: 12/256 (4.7%)
- Completely Successful: 3/256 (1.2%) (details below)
- February 9: Virginia Tech used one deliberate foul at the 28.1 mark as a springboard to turn a one-point deficit (62-61) into an eventual two-point lead/victory (65-63) vs. Georgia Tech, thanks in part to Georgia Tech’s own unsuccessful deliberate fouling after falling behind!
- February 13: Detroit used one deliberate foul at the 13.1 mark as a springboard to turn a one-point deficit (64-63) into an eventual one-point lead/victory (66-65) vs. Cleveland State
- March 19: During the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, Georgia State used two deliberate fouls (30.3, 14.1) to turn a three-point deficit (56-53) into one-point lead/victory (57-56) vs. Baylor (thanks in part to college basketball’s one-and-one free-throw rule, another outdated rule to be discussed another day)
Leading NBA teams stalled in the overwhelming majority of the 358 sampled 4th quarter/overtime periods. In many other games, the leading team was deliberately fouled before it had the chance to stall. And in many of the remaining instances, the trailing team overtly conceded the game before the leading team would have normally considered stalling.
In only seven instances (2.0%) did circumstances align to allow a truly stalling-free 4th quarter/overtime period:
- November 1: Bulls 106, Timberwolves 105
- November 5: 4th quarter of Wizards 96, Pacers 94 (OT)
- November 8: Pelicans 100, Spurs 99
- December 12: Overtime of Lakers 112, Spurs 110 (OT)
- January 27: 4th quarter of Bulls 113, Warriors 111 (OT)
- May 2 (Western Conference First Round Game 7): Clippers 111, Spurs 109
- May 13 (Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5): Hawks 82, Wizards 81
Only seven of the 446 sampled NCAA 2nd half/overtime periods (1.6%) were stalling-free:
- November 30: Western Michigan 68, San Diego 66
- January 14: Baylor 74, Iowa State 73
- January 15: Overtime of George Washington 73, Richmond 70 (2OT)
- January 24: Overtime of West Virginia 86, TCU 85 (OT)
- February 7: UCSB 75, Hawaii 74 (would have included stalling if not for an official error that misled UCSB into believing the game was tied in the closing seconds)
- March 6: Belmont 53, Eastern Kentucky 52
- March 19 (NCAA Tournament Second Round): North Carolina State 66, LSU 65
The game clock further contributes to an ugly brand of basketball by forcing the trailing (and in some cases, tied) team to attempt ugly shots. This effect is strongest during the final possession of a 4th quarter/2nd half/overtime period.
Consider that 71 of the sampled NBA 4th quarter/overtime periods ended with a possession that could have tied or won the game. Only seven of those possessions (9.9%) were converted.
101 of the sampled NCAA 2nd half/overtime periods ended with a possession that could have tied or won the game. Only FOUR of those possessions (4.0%) were converted. The 97 unsuccessful possessions included an especially cringe-worthy situation: on February 5, nursing a two-point lead vs. Mount St. Mary’s, Bryant vacated the lane and intentionally missed a free throw with 0.6 seconds left; Mount St. Mary’s players allowed the ball to gently bounce four times, creeping slightly closer to their basket to set up the most favorable three-quarter-court heave; the play seemed to be in slow motion, and ESPNU broadcasters Adnan Virk and Steve Donahue literally broke into laughter at the play’s hopelessness as it unfolded!
Even if we broaden the definition from actual buzzer beater possessions to potential buzzer beater possessions (any possession where the offense is tied or trailing by 1-3 points, with the shot clock turned off), NBA teams converted only 40 of 162 such possessions (24.7%) and NCAA teams converted only 64 of 265 such possessions (24.2%).
Trailing NBA teams conceded 241 of 322 sampled games (74.8%) by choosing not to foul deliberately (on at least one late possession when the strategy would have been advisable) while on defense and/or by choosing not to play at a frantic pace (on at least one late possession when the strategy would have been advisable) while on offense and/or by removing its best players from the game. This does not include a number of instances when teams conceded by choosing not to use all of its available timeouts (to automatically advance the ball into the frontcourt).
Trailing NCAA teams conceded 252 of 408 sampled games (61.8%) by choosing not to foul deliberately while on defense and/or by choosing not to play at a frantic pace while on offense.
Unfortunately, some trailing teams are villainized for not giving up, because the only available strategy (specifically, repeated and deliberate fouling) is so boring to watch! Consider that during the NCAA Tournament alone, six desperate teams were booed for committing deliberate fouls in especially bleak situations:
- Providence, Second Round vs. Dayton
- North Dakota State, Second Round vs. Gonzaga
- Georgetown, Third Round vs. Utah
- Oregon, Third Round vs. Wisconsin
- Wichita State, Regional Semifinals vs. Notre Dame
- North Carolina State, Regional Semifinals vs. Louisville
The final three minutes of all 358 sampled NBA 4th quarter/overtime periods included 27 clock reviews, malfunctions, and operator errors. The final four minutes of all 446 sampled NCAA 2nd half/overtime periods included 60 clock reviews, malfunctions, and errors, contributing to a few hilariously anticlimactic finishes:
- January 5: Texas Southern’s 59-58 victory at Southern included three clock reviews (totaling approximately nine actual minutes) during the final second!
- February 7: UCSB’s 75-74 victory vs. Hawaii was aided by clock-related controversy: in a frantic finish, Hawaii’s Isaac Fleming (trailing 75-72) gathered an offensive rebound and scrambled out to the perimeter to make what was initially ruled to be a game-tying three-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining; UCSB immediately inbounded the ball and, in an effort to score in what they believed to be a tie game, missed a three-quarter-court heave at the buzzer; officials then reviewed Fleming’s shot, ruled it to be a two-pointer, and declared the game over; they did not replay the final 1.1 seconds and offer Hawaii a chance (however unlikely) to come back from the one-point deficit
- February 23: Alabama State’s 56-54 victory at Southern was followed by a drastically dampened celebration: with the game tied 54-54, Alabama State’s Jamel Waters appeared to win the game by making a long two-pointer at the buzzer, sparking a wild and genuine celebration (on-court players rushing to embrace Waters; bench players jumping up and down, about to join the embrace; etc.); but after only one or two seconds, the officials blew their whistles to subdue the celebration and initiate a clock review that restored 0.5 seconds to the game clock; after four subsequent team timeouts, an especially hopeless final possession (where Southern’s Trelun Banks was unable to catch an inbounds pass thrown at his feet), and the passage of approximately six actual minutes, Alabama State’s win was official – and followed by a whimper of a celebration
- March 27: Duke’s 63-57 victory vs. Utah in the NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal was especially anticlimactic: in an already-dire situation, Utah’s deliberate foul appeared to be committed after the buzzer; the teams respectfully shook hands and Utah headed to the locker room; but wait! a clock review restored 0.7 seconds to the game clock, so Utah had to return for Duke’s meaningless free throw attempts and its own, just-as-meaningless missed three-quarter-court heave
INTERMINABLE FINAL STAGES
Of 306* sampled NBA 4th quarter/overtime periods played on or after December 1, the final minute of 46 periods (15.0%) lasted ten actual minutes or more. Of 399* sampled NCAA 2nd half/overtime periods played on or after December 1, the final minute of 64 periods (16.0%) lasted ten actual minutes or more.
*This information was not collected for games played in November 2014
The final moment of a given basketball game can usually be categorized in one of five ways:
- Meaningful made basket (also known as a buzzer beater!)
- Unsuccessful meaningful possession (when offense trails by 1-3 points)
- Meaningless (made or missed) shot attempt (when offense already leads, or trails by four points or more; this category also includes additional instances when a player clearly intended to take a meaningless shot, but when time expired before shot could be released)
- Leading player stalls (in most cases, casually dribbling or holding the ball; in especially close games, this might include a player/team actively evading its opponent’s attempt to commit a deliberate foul)
- Trailing player stalls (the most striking form of conceding)
The 322 sampled NBA games and 408 sampled NCAA games ended in the following ways:
|Meaningful Made Basket||4* (1.2%)||3* (0.7%)|
|Unsuccessful Meaningful Possession||32 (9.9%)||61 (15.0%)|
|Meaningless Shot Attempt||49 (15.2%)||86 (21.1%)|
|Leading Player Stalls||194 (60.2%)||245 (60.0%)|
|Trailing Player Stalls||43 (13.4%)||13 (3.2%)|
*Note that these totals do not match the totals implied in the SLOPPY/RUSHED/INCOMPLETE POSSESSIONS section; this is because the earlier section included a few instances when a successful buzzer beater did not end the game, but merely tied the game and forced overtime
In some cases, parties engage in unlikely collaboration to expedite the ending (of any kind!) to a game:
- January 30: Buffalo sought to dribble out the final seconds of an 80-55 victory vs. Kent State; however, a referee keenly recognized that the shot clock still exceeded the game clock by about one second, and approached the still-dribbling Buffalo player and spoke with him for a few seconds to notify him of this, and presumably to strategize about a way to avoid a clock-stopping shot clock violation; eventually, just before the shot clock expired, the Buffalo player launched a flat-footed air ball from the midcourt logo that landed ten feet short of the basket – but he had accomplished his mission
- February 25: Oregon sought to dribble out the final seconds of an 80-69 victory at California, but the shot clock exceeded the game clock by nearly one second; however, as the possession continued, the shot clock operator suddenly and conveniently shut off the shot clock with about 18 seconds remaining to avoid a potential violation
- March 9: The Grizzlies sought to put the finishing touches on a 101-91 victory at the Bulls, but, recognizing the shot clock was on track to expire with approximately 15 seconds remaining, Marc Gasol threw a friendly, crisp, underhand 20-foot pass directly to the Bulls’ Joakim Noah so as to avoid a clock-stopping violation
Let’s now consider all 4th quarter/2nd half/overtime periods (not just those at the true end of a game), and categorize possible period endings a little differently than in the previous section (listed in decreasing order of excitement):
- Made basket to win
- Made basket to tie
- Unsuccessful meaningful possession (by tied team or team trailing by 1-3 points)
- Meaningless possession (when offense already has lead, or trails by four points or more)
17 overtime periods were played after February 16* in sampled NBA games. The ending of 13 of those periods (76.5%) failed to match the excitement of the preceding period’s ending. The ending of four of those periods (23.5%) managed to match the excitement of the preceding ending. None of those periods ended in a more exciting fashion than the preceding period.
13 overtime periods were played on or after February 16* in sampled NCAA games. The ending of eight of those periods (61.5%) failed to match the excitement of the preceding period’s ending. The ending of five of those periods (38.5%) managed to match the excitement of the preceding ending. Again, none of those periods ended in a more exciting fashion than the preceding period.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Any overtime period, necessarily, follows a nearly-impossible-to-follow act – a 4th quarter/2nd half/earlier overtime period that was, by definition, as competitive as can be.
*This information was not collected for games played before February 16
Leading NBA teams allowed at least 39 uncontested field goals during sampled games. Leading NCAA teams allowed at least 66 uncontested field goals during sampled games.
INTENTIONALLY MISSED FREE THROW ATTEMPTS
A trailing team will sometimes intentionally miss a free throw attempt if circumstances are just right (have one free throw attempt remaining, during closing seconds of game, usually trailing by exactly two or three points) as a way to continue a crucial late possession. A leading team will sometimes do the same under a similarly restrictive set of circumstances (have one free throw attempt remaining, during closing seconds of game, usually leading by exactly one or two points) as a way to disadvantage its opponent with an extremely unfavorable ensuing final shot.
The contrasting success of these strategies further illustrates the disproportionate difficulty of overcoming a late deficit (and the correspondingly disproportionate ease of protecting a late lead). A trailing NBA team employed the strategy five times during sampled games (including two instances when a player accidentally made a free throw, as evidenced by an unnatural shooting motion and/or reaction of disappointment/frustration following the make), and was successful (using a very generous definition) only once (on April 3, when the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook’s intentionally missed free throw led to an offensive rebound while trailing by six points with 15.2 seconds remaining at the Grizzlies, but failed to lead to an eventual comeback). A trailing NCAA team employed the strategy eight times during sampled games (including two accidental makes) but was never successful.
Conversely, a leading NBA team employed the strategy three times (including one accidental make) during sampled games, leading to an unsuccessful ensuing shot by its opponent every time. Similarly, a leading NCAA team employed the strategy three times during sampled games, also leading to an unsuccessful ensuing shot by its opponent every time.
During the final three minutes of sampled NBA 4th quarter/overtime periods, a trailing team committed a deliberate foul when its opponent was not yet in the bonus (and, consequently, did not serve deliberate fouling’s primary purpose of sending the leading team to the free throw line) in 31 periods, essentially punishing the trailing team for having committed too few fouls earlier in the period.
During the final four minutes of sampled NCAA 2nd half/overtime periods, a trailing team committed a deliberate foul when its opponent was not yet in the bonus in 19 periods.
During sampled games, 25 NBA players committed a sixth foul deliberately and/or during overtime. During sampled games, 111 NCAA players committed a fifth foul in a similar fashion. (This does not include players who fouled out while committing a legitimate foul, but who had committed at least one deliberate foul earlier in period.)
UNSIGHTLY STRATEGIES, ETC.
During sampled games, trailing NCAA offenses rolled 163 inbounds passes. On January 24, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten nearly cost his team an 86-85 overtime victory vs. TCU by employing this strategy while trailing and with the game clock running with 1:10 remaining in overtime
During sampled games played on or after January 1*, leading NCAA offenses vacated the lane in 195 instances during the last free throw attempt of a trip
*This information was not collected for games played before January 1
On March 19, Georgetown challenged commonly-held notions of good sportsmanship by simply converting a fastbreak dunk, with 1.2 seconds remaining, while already leading by eight points in a soon-to-be-official 84-74 victory vs. Eastern Washington during the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament
On March 19, Iowa State doomed itself by scoring a putback two-point basket with 0.4 seconds remaining in an NCAA Tournament Second Round game it would lose, 60-59, soon after vs. UAB
SO DID ANY OF THE 730 SAMPLED GAMES DELIVER WHAT A HYBRID DURATION FORMAT COULD OFFER EVERY GAME?
Well, let’s see. One of the hybrid format’s greatest benefits is the guarantee that every game end with a meaningful made basket. Again, only seven sampled games delivered even that much. And a closer look at those games reveals other flaws that would have been averted under a hybrid format:
- February 14: Jonathan Stark’s deep three-pointer lifted Tulane to a 50-49 victory at Cincinnati, but in a game marred by stalling by both teams and a celebration-dampening clock review
- March 12: Monte Morris’s pull-up jumper lifted Iowa State to a 69-67 victory vs. Texas, but in a game marred by Texas’ stalling (which began as early as the 3:24 mark)
- March 25: Trey Freeman’s running three-pointer lifted Old Dominion to a 72-69 victory vs. Murray State in the NIT Quarterfinals, but in a game marred by two deliberate fouls committed by Murray State; stalling by Old Dominion (which began as early as the 2:54 mark); a rolled inbounds pass by Murray State; and a final minute that lasted approximately 12 actual minutes (and included only two made field goals)
- April 25: Jerryd Bayless’s lay-up lifted the Bucks to a 92-90 victory vs. the Bulls in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs First Round, but in a game marred by stalling by both teams and a clock review that threatened to dampen the Bucks’ celebration
- May 8: Derrick Rose’s long three-pointer lifted the Bulls to a 99-96 victory vs. the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but in a game marred by a deliberate foul committed by the Cavaliers; a final minute that lasted approximately ten actual minutes (and included only three made field goals); and a clock review that threatened to dampen the Bulls’ celebration
- May 9: Paul Pierce’s stepback, banked-in, long two-pointer lifted the Wizards to a 103-101 victory vs. the Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but in a game marred by a deliberate foul committed by the Hawks and a final minute that lasted approximately 13 actual minutes (and included only two made field goals)
- May 10: LeBron James’ catch-and-shoot long two-pointer lifted the Cavaliers to an 86-84 victory at the Bulls in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but in a game marred by stalling by the Cavaliers (which began as early as the 3:18 mark); a final minute that lasted approximately 11 actual minutes (and included only three made field goals); and a controversial clock review that granted the Cavaliers a de facto timeout and 0.7 extra seconds during their final possession
But wait a second. You’ll notice that six of these games ended with a made basket that broke a tie. Yawn. Under the current format, an offense in such a situation must only contend with the watered-down pressure of a make-and-win-OR-miss-and-head-to-overtime shot. Tie games under a hybrid format would feature the much greater pressure of a make-and-win-OR-miss-and-immediately-get-back-to-play-defense-for-your-life shot.
Yes, in addition to all of the other benefits presented by a hybrid format, it would also introduce true sudden death situations to basketball! And considering the near-coin-flip likelihood of scoring on any given possession (a positive trait shared with football’s sudden death) AND the rapidity with which possession is exchanged (a positive trait shared with hockey’s sudden death), basketball’s sudden death would be, verifiably, the most unpredictable and exciting situation encountered in any sport.
You can find more about the need for a hybrid duration format in basketball, and the format itself, here:
Time’s Up for Basketball’s Game Clock: Part 1-3
A New Beginning for Basketball’s End: Part 1
A New Beginning for Basketball’s End: Part 2
A New Beginning for Basketball’s End: Part 3
A Stopped Clock Would Always Be Right (During the Late Stages of Basketball Games): 2014-2015 Season Review
A Stopped Clock Would Always Be Right (During the Late Stages of Basketball Games): 2015-2016 Season Review
Ball Don’t Comply: Shorter Shot Clock, Same Unsightly Late-Game Strategy
Ball Don’t Comply: Introducing Piggyback Fouling
Ball Don’t Comply: An Unforgettably Forgettable NBA All-Star Game
Ball Don’t Comply: When an NBA Shutout Comes as No Surprise
Time’s Up for Basketball’s Game Clock (Research Paper Exhibited at 2016 SPEIA Basketball Analytics Summit)
Ball Don’t Comply: How a Hybrid Duration Format Would Provide an Endless Supply of Shining Moments
Ball Don’t Comply: A Career-Defining Championship Deserves a Career-Defining Moment
The Basket Inefficiency: An International Phenomenon
The Basket Inefficiency: The Blare of a Horn vs. The Swish of a Net
The Basket Inefficiency: The Commissioner Says It’s Broke – Let’s Fix It
The Basket Inefficiency: Belt Pack Malfunctions Happen
The Basket Inefficiency: 1.1 Seconds We Can Never Get Back
The Basket Inefficiency: A Hybrid Has Its Day
Bad Timing: Reducing Timeouts Just Ain’t Enough
Bad Timing: Too Many Games Going Out Like a Lamb (When They Could Easily Go Out Like a Lion)
Bad Timing: Pick Your Poison
Bad Timing: Sorry, We Ran Out of Real Basketball for the Night
Non-Concerns About the Hybrid Duration Format (Elam Ending)
ESPN/Zach Lowe: NBA Watching The Basketball Tournament’s Innovative Approach to Crunch Time
The Basketball Tournament: The Man Behind the Elam Ending
The Basketball Tournament Podcast: The Elam Ending
Hang Up and Listen Podcast (18:30-38:30)
NPR Only a Game Podcast: May 19, 2017 (21:45-30:45)
The Basket Inefficiency: Shake It Off
Did You See That?/Zach Drapkin: Breaking Down TBT’s Elam Ending
ESPN/Joe Lunardi: Is It Time for a Different Way to End Basketball Games?
SportsBeat KC Podcast: July 14, 2017
Freakonomics’ Tell Me Something I Don’t Know: September 6, 2017
The Elam Ending: Examining the Necessity and Soundness of Eliminating the Game Clock from the Final Portion of Every Basketball Game (Competitive Advantage Presentation Delivered at 2018 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference)