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Popovich says hero-ball is ‘boring,’ which explains difference between Spurs and Lakers last-second shots

Nov 14, 2012, 1:02 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich AP

The Spurs beat the Lakers on Tuesday thanks to a three-pointer from Danny Green that put San Antonio up by two with 9.3 seconds left.

We broke down the beauty of the play that Gregg Popovich called — multiple screens, all players in motion, freeing up a shooter for a good look at the final shot.

The majority of teams, for some strange reason, choose isolation with their best player holding the ball and trying to score one-on-one with the game on the line. It’s counterintuitive, in that if during the entire course of the game you’d prefer set plays to free someone for an open look, instead of having guys try to create on their own to force tough shots over one or more defenders, why change the philosophy on a game’s most important possession?

There’s a reason Popovich is one of the game’s best minds– it’s because he does what makes sense. Though it would also seem his reasons are a bit selfish. (via Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop)

“I hate that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s so boring.”

What Popovich hates, of course, is the hero-ball isolation nonsense that I just described.

Whether it truly is due to boredom (doubtful, given Popovich’s famously-dry sense of humor) or whether it’s just the smarter decision, the Spurs choose to run plays on a final possession rather than trust one guy to do it all on his own.

Now, contrast that with the look that the Lakers got on their final possession.

The Bernie Bickerstaff era in Los Angeles will be neither historic nor looked back upon fondly, especially when considering the way L.A. failed to execute with the game in the balance.

With 9.3 seconds left, there’s a virtual eternity to get into something better than this.

Pau Gasol cuts to the corner, and receives the inbound pass behind the three-point line. He’s alone, save for Tim Duncan right there closely contesting whatever move Gasol would choose to make.

He had Kobe Bryant cutting to the basket, and even if he was late with the pass, Bryant would have had the ball on the low block with more than five seconds left, and with no help available from Duncan given his position defending Gasol. If Tiago Splitter decided to come over to contest, Bryant could have bounced it to Dwight Howard, who would have gotten fouled at the very least.

That would have been a decent choice, and Bryant may very well have been able to tie the game in that position. But it’s still not a good plan, and it looks even worse when Gasol launches a three over Duncan’s outstretched arms.

It’s one play, and the Lakers certainly are hopeful that with Mike D’Antoni firmly in place, their offensive options will look a lot more reasonable. But it’s a great example of what more teams should look to do on a game’s most critical possession, and it’s why Popovich has the Spurs consistently near the top of the league-wide standings.

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