In defense of Frank Vogel, and in praise of Hero Ball

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People love to talk about how Vogel pulled out Hibbert in crucial situations. It’s easy to point that finger when the play ultimately ended up being a LeBron layup, but so many different things could have happened. If George did not overplay LeBron so much, LeBron may have pulled up for a jumpshot, or the ball might have never gotten into LeBron’s hands. There might have been some sort play that pulled Bosh out to hit a jumpshot, and in that case Hibbert would have been late to close out on Bosh, and there’d be some internet wannabe basketball coaches (such as myself) who would have criticized Vogel’s failure in recognizing that Miami has gone to a Chris Bosh jump shot on multiple occasions.

It’s funny how basketball coaches and players can spend a majority of their lives working on so many different aspects of basketball and spend lots of money on scouting. But when a game boils down to one final possession to determine the outcome, sometimes the most effective move is just to draw a hero ball play.

WIth hero ball you have a really good chance of at least getting a shot off, then anywhere from a 40-50% chance of making a play that wins you a game. Whereas running certain plays may give you a 100% chance of making a basket if you run it right, but there is also so much variability- relying on all five of your players  to get to the right places at the right time, banking on the opposing team’s defense to not recognize the play, and sometimes just getting the right bounce in your favor.

In Game 4 of the Warriors/Spurs series, many Warriors fans were enraged when the last play of regulation was just a Jarrett Jack iso, but I don’t blame Mark Jackson (or the true mastermind Mike Malone) for drawing that play up. I’m sure it fooled Popovich and gave Tony Parker a slight scare when it was just him on an island with Jarrett Jack.

With that in mind, sometimes end of game defense is a lot better if you just stick to what you know, and the most fundamental things. Running a ‘simple’ man-to-man, or a certain zone that you are very comfortable with may be way better than some mastermind figured-out defense (i.e. Paul George overplaying LeBron).

Nevertheless, a great way to start the Heat/Pacers series. I want to see a little more tension boiling between these two teams in the future. I think last night’s game marked Paul George’s official coming out party (not the same type as Jason Collins). Heat/Pacers could be a really solid rivalry in the years to come. Just saying.

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