The Pass of Destiny
5/22/2007 - Detroit 79-76 Cleveland - Up 1-0, ECF.
Lebron kicked it, and Rasheed was vastly, enormously, unforgivably out of position and Donyell Marshall morphed into Robert Horry for one or three hateful seconds before the ball clanged off the rim and Marshall was lovable, unthreatening Donyell Marshall again. We like Donyell Marshall. We do not like Robert Horry and it has nothing to do with his hipcheck; it has to do with the irritating playoffs-clutch-guy thing.
And so the hot topic appears to be the Pass of Destiny. I, being a Pistons fan, hated the Pass of Destiny; therefore it was probably a really good idea. Math:
- Donyell Marshall is a career 35% three-point shooter and most of his looks haven't been nearly as good as a wide open corner three. A conservative estimate of that shot's chance to go in is around 40%.
Marshall's shot wins the game if it goes in.Update: I remembered the end of the game wrong. There would still have been time for a response from the Pistons.
- Hypothetical Lebron shot ties the game and takes less time, giving the Pistons an opportunity to respond at the other end of the floor. Chances of Cleveland winning are less than 50%. If you conservatively estimate that Detroit's last second shot when they inbound at half-court after a timeout is 20% to go in and that OT is 50-50, Lebron scoring gives the Cavs a 40% chance to win.
- The chance Lebron scores must be 2 times greater than the chance Marshall scores for the kick to be a bad idea (80% chance of win / 40% chance of win = 2).
- 40% * 2 = 80%.
- Lebron didn't have any 80% chance to make his shot.
- He did the right thing. QED, MFer.
That's a pat conclusion that requires some hypothetical numbers. It also assumes that Lebron is basketball Deep Thought and has this sort of game theory analysis going on constantly; the tipping factor here is the difference in potential Detroit ripostes given the amount of time left on the clock, which would require some preternatural sixth sense to absorb and evaluate. So Lebron might not have known that he was doing the right thing and it might be a symbol of his vexing failure to become the ur-player or even the best player in his draft class.
Because Lebron chews his nails. He misses important free throws. He has not thrown down and roared in a critical situation for all to see. He is not... clutch. So when you kick to a wide open player who has a shot for the win it is read as further evidence of being UnClutch even though you have just set your teammate up with the best possible shot he could have and given your team the best possible avenue to win. That's the job of any player, and sometimes even when you're a superstar the best play is for someone else to shoot.
Now, the ten points and no free throws? Well... that seemed to be an interesting reaction by Mike Brown to the defense the Pistons threw at the Cavs last year, when they essentially played a zone whenever the Cavs tried to iso Lebron and did so to good effect. Last night they displayed a willingness to continue this, switching every screen when Lebron came across the perimeter and having help defenders keep an eye out for any potential drives. They left other players open and for a while Cleveland took advantage of that strategy by getting open looks and using the out-of-position help guys to their advantage and crashing the boards. Lebron had no points in the first quarter and his team led by six. Was that a bad performance? Um... no? The problems came later when the Cavaliers remembered that they were the Cavaliers and therefore sucked. By that time it seemed that Lebron was all too content to remain peripheral, and the few times when he took it upon himself to create something the result was a tough jumper after a double-team. He was damned if he did or did not; those criticizing him today are choosing between two different ways to reach the same end.
- Hated the insertion of Lindsay Hunter. I know the last time I talked Pistons here I declared my abiding hatred for all things Flip Murray, but essentially from that moment on Murray turned his season around and started playing inexplicably well when given a chance. Hunter still has him on ball-hounding and has a place in the lineup, but when the opposing point guard is Eric Snow? Um... what? If the point of putting Hunter out there is to shut down an opposing perimeter player and the person you are shutting down is Eric Snow, there is a problem. Flip Murray is perfectly capable of doing the same. There are probably WNBA players capable of doing the same. Hell, you could send Reed Baker out there to watch Snow launch his jacked up shot with no detrimental effect on your winning percentage. So... what is the purpose of sending Hunter out, especially when your offense is clunking along to 35 first half points?
- OTOH, the Maxiell insertion was very effective late (though there was that ugly, unnecessary goaltending).
- Antonio McDyess lost his jumpshot, found it in a major way in the second half of the season, and then lost it again. It's frustrating to watch him throw up shots that were almost guaranteed in the waning days of the regular season and watch them clang off the rim. An average performance from him and the game is tied at the half and comfortable down the stretch.
- This felt like a game Cleveland had to have if they were going to win the series. Detroit has now survived a game in which Prince was something like 1/11 and Billups not only failed to get his shot but coughed up seven(!!!) turnovers. All told, Detroit had 16 to Cleveland's 7; this will not happen again.