It wasn’t a bad play design.
At first glance, your reaction after the buzzer sounded yesterday may have been something like “THAT was the play call after a timeout?” Twitter was buzzing with all kinds of hot takes from people complaining about the play and insulting the basketball IQ of Rick Pitino, since people still do that. But I am here to assure you that an off-balance three pointer by Damion Lee was NOT the only option in the final seconds at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon.
What did you see on that last play? Did you see Damion Lee get the ball, walk (with no call), and force up an off-balance shot? Did you then assume that THAT was the only option on that play and that Pitino drew that up for Damion Lee to shoot it with nothing else going on in the play? Did you hear the buzzer go off and jump to conclusions about that play and just say how terrible of a call it was?
I am not too tech-savvy. The pictures on this post are just me taking pictures of my TV with the game paused. Nothing fancy. Bare with me.
Damion Lee caught the ball with 5.7 seconds left. When he caught it, Alex Poythress was guarding him. He had just switched with Tyler Ulis, who was now guarding Chinanu Onuaku. Read that again. Tyler Ulis was now guarding Chinanu Onuaku on the block. There are 5.7 seconds left. If Onuaku gets the ball, does Ulis wrap him up and force free throws? Probably, but that also means Onuaku may be able to get up a shot and get an “and one” with his size advantage down low.
Don’t like that option?
Ray Spalding is in position at the top of the key with 3.9 seconds left to set a screen and let Lee go to his right and probably get to the basket. So there is another option.
Lee said after the game that he “wanted to go for the kill.” And yes, I love that. I am fine with going for the three and the win. I am not faulting Lee after the effort he gave on Saturday. I am just pointing out that the play did have other options in it that probably went unnoticed by a lot of people, especially judging by the quick reactions yesterday immediately following the game.
You may not like Coach Pitino’s late game plays after timeouts, but surely you don’t think his play was “Get the ball to Damion, shoot a crazy shot and hope it goes in, but it better because we have no other options on this play.” Right? If you do think that, hopefully now you can see that there were at least two other options. Onuaku with Ulis guarding him. And a ball screen at the top of the key. That ball screen at the top of the key could have led to a three pointer or a drive to the basket, where they couldn’t stop Lee. But again, I am ok with him going for the win.
You hate to lose. You hate to lose by 2 to your rival. But these games don’t come down to one play. And even then, this was NOT a bad play design.