Friday, June 12, 2009

NBA Finals: Orlando had wrong Van Gundy on bench for Game 4

Orlando had wrong Van Gundy on bench for Game4

By John McMullen

(The Phanatic Magazine) - A little advice to any fledgling coaches out there.

If you want to know how to handle yourself in the closing seconds of a tight affair, don't pop in the tape from Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Stan Van Gundy and Phil Jackson both embarrassed themselves in the final minute, but Derek Fisher bailed out the Zen master and virtually assured the Lakers' 15th world championship.

The Magic were in a position to even the series and had an 87-84 edge with just 10.8 seconds remaining. With their season and the franchise's first NBA championship hanging in the balance, Van Gundy made the critical decision not to foul before the Lakers attempted a three-pointer.

Left virtually unguarded, Fisher got the ball in the back court, calmly dribbled up the right side and buried the three over Jameer Nelson with 4.6 seconds left. Much like Game 2, LA then dominated the overtime period to take a comfortable 3-1 series lead.

Stan Van Gundy made the critical decision not to foul before the Lakers attempted a three-pointer.
Van Gundy was sick after the game over the decision not to foul and turn the final seconds into a free-throw shooting contest.

"It was my decision with 11 seconds not to foul," Van Gundy said. "Yes I regret it now, but only in retrospect. I mean, normally to me 11 (seconds) is too early. You foul, they make two free throws, [they] cut it to one [and] you're still at six or seven seconds."

Solid logic but specious since Jackson and his staff made one whopper of a mistake coming out of the timeout that should have made Van Gundy's decision to foul a no-brainer.

Jackson and Company thought the Magic had a foul to give, meaning his team would get the ball out of bounds again after a foul, taking precious seconds off the clock. They didn't.

The poor bookkeeping by PJack's staff resulted in Jackson instructing his team to take the ball out in their backcourt to create space to hopefully avoid a foul that wasn't coming.

By taking the ball in the backcourt, it took the Lakers time to get into scoring position. Remember, Fisher nailed the three with 4.6 ticks left.

If Van Gundy had picked up on Jackson's miscue and ordered his players to foul, the Lakers likely would have had a pair of free throws with under six seconds to go, making things awfully tight even if Orlando, which hit just 59 percent (22-for-37) from the charity stripe in the game, came up empty at the other end.

"That one will haunt me forever," Van Gundy said. "When they took it full court (shaking his head)... I'll have to go back and look at that."

Even Van Gundy's bother, ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy, criticized his brother's decision on the television broadcast.

Clearly the wrong Van Gundy was on the Orlando bench Thursday night.

The moral of the story?

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Jackson's rudimentary mistake was right up there with Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon filling out a lineup card incorrectly, but Van Gundy's subsequent inability to pick up on it likely cost his team the series.

Maybe Shaquille O'Neal was on to something when he called Van Gundy "a master of panic" earlier this year.

As for Jackson, he'll likely be purchasing polish for a pair of items -- his record 10th NBA championship as a coach and the horseshoe that resides in his rear end.

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