Late game situations: Calling timeout
Harvard Sports Analysis recently broke down whether a team that is tied late in the game with the ball should call a timeout. After looking at the 2009-2010 season, he found that teams that did not call a timeout scored an average of 1.06 points per possession compared to .773 for teams that did call a timeout.
I have always been of this mindset for several reasons. The main point is that when the offense calls a timeout, the defense has time to catch its breath, regroup and set up for the possession. When you don’t call a timeout, the defense can be scrambling and the offense can take advantage of this.
Let’s take a look at one of the best examples of this from last season, Maryland-Michigan State:
Now the game was not tied but the same principles apply. Let’s take a look at the floor right before Korie Lucious attempts the winning 3.
Notice in the first shot how all Maryland defenders are below the foul line (except the one on the ball). As they were up 1, they instinctively ran to protect the basket. Also, as it was in transition, they were more concerned with protecting the basket than picking up their man.
Izzo played it perfectly here, as he let his players play. If he calls timeout here, Maryland gets a breather, can find their man and the play will be harder to execute. Lucious takes advantage of that little space he gets before he finds his man and buries the shot.
I went back and found two more examples of where not calling a timeout worked for the offense.
In this clip, Crawford’s 3 takes a little longer to develop but the principle stands. KSU made a good decision to switch on the 3 there when they were up 3 but Crawford just made a great shot.
The funny thing is, KSU has a chance to win the game still and don’t call a time out. Clemente races down the court and gets an open jumper but misses it. Two chances, no timeouts, 2 good opportunities to score. Again, showing how not calling a timeout can work to your advantage.
Finally, here is a clip from Oregon v. Texas a few years back.
Again, the play takes some time to develop but the coach trusted his players and it paid off. If the coach is worth his salary, he has them practicing late game situations all season. That way, a timeout is not necessary to draw up a play while allowing the defense to get set and focused.
I have always been of the mindset that you should not call timeout when you are down by 2 or less or tied with the ball, under 35 seconds. If you do, you are playing into the defense hands and making it harder on yourself to score. It is easier to score against a defense coming off an open play (or made basket) than one coming off a dead ball.
I hope these videos showed that and I thank the writer behind the above post for putting some numbers to my theory.