Intentional foul in final seconds nearly costs Warriors

November 30, 2012, 9:57 pm
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With the Warriors leading the Nuggets 106-103 in the finalseconds of Thursdays game at Oracle, Andre Iguodala came down the right sideof the court looking to make a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it intoovertime.

RECAP: Warriors 106, Nuggets 105
Jarrett Jack had missed at the other end with nine secondsremaining, and so the game was coming down to this possession.As Iguodala approached the arc, Jack committed anintentional foul on him, wanting to take the potential 3-point game-tying shotout of the equation.But the official ruled that Iguodala was in the act ofshooting on the foul and awarded him three free throws with 3.4 secondsremaining -- and a chance to send the game into overtime.To be sure, it was a questionable call. And lets go aheadand make it a bad call for the purposes of this discussion.But the point here is not to harp on the call. The point here is to show an example of why intentionallyfouling late in the game with more than a two-point lead isnt always theno-brainer that some believe it is.It is becoming more and more common that teams will foulinside, lets say, five seconds or so with a three-point lead so as not toallow the trailing team an opportunity to tie the game with a3-pointer.The thinking is that the percentages are with the team thatswinning to secure a rebound off an intentional miss on the second foul shotattempt as opposed to the trailing team making a 3-pointer to tie thegame.And in theory, it seems to be a sound strategy.But the reality is that when you decide to foul in thatsituation you are also inviting trouble.In that case, you must allow for the unknown of thereferees whistle andor the possibility that your player may not quite foul atthe right time.Thursday night was a perfect example of that. The Warriorswere in a position where if they got one stop at the end of regulation -- onIguodalas last possession -- they would have gone into the locker room winners -- quick and easy.The worst scenario for the Warriors there would have beenIguodala hitting a contested 3-pointer (hopefully) and the game going intoovertime. Certainly not ideal, but you still have a chance to win inovertime.But by choosing to foul -- and with an accompanyingquestionable call -- the Warriors actually put themselves in position to losethe game in regulation.By choosing to foul, youre choosing to extend the game, astrategy that mostly is employed by the team thats losing. And by extendingthe game while youre ahead, youre giving the trailing team more opportunitiesto come back and win the game.In the case of the Warriors-Nuggets Thursday night, it wasalmost a nightmare for Golden State. Iguodala made two free throws with 3.4seconds left, missed the third but Golden State couldnt secure therebound.That left Denver with the last possession and an inboundsplay in the Warriors frontcourt. At that point, the Warriors could have veryeasily lost the game in regulation -- which couldnt have happened if theWarriors had chosen not to foul.Of course, Iguodala ended up making what appeared to be agame-winning buzzer-beater. But replays showed the ball came out of his hands asplit-second after the buzzer.A tenth of a second here or there and its a crushing lossfor Golden State -- and the reason would have been two-fold -- because it choseto foul and because the official made a questionable call.But you have to take into account for that improbability. Inother words, if youre going to foul, you also need to prepare for some thingsbeyond your control. Thats why some coaches elect not to do it, insteadrelying on his teams defense to get one stop.If youre an advocate of fouling with a three-point leadlate in a game, you certainly have a leg to stand on. But choosing not to foulisnt wrong, either. Its just another way to go.