When John Calipari was hired to lead the Kentucky basketball program, there were a few things fans were forced to accept. Opposing fan bases will call him a cheater, his teams are going to look different every single year, and he is never going to run an in-bounds play that is designed to produce points. I can understand and accept those, but there is one I cannot bear to watch any longer.
Why must we hold the ball for so long before attempting to score late in games?
I think every smart basketball fan knows that chewing up clock with the lead is important, but I know that I wasn’t the only person thinking about the Wisconsin game as the clock ticked away against Louisville. Dominique Hawkins’ 3-pointer with 2:46 left put Kentucky up 73-68. For the rest of the game, the Cats had 2 turnovers and 2 free throws and were a Damion Lee prayer away from taking a loss.
The concept is sound, but they’ve been putting it into practice poorly.
Against Wisconsin, the only consistent offense was coming from Karl-Anthony Towns. They got three consecutive shot-clock violations because instead of attempting to feed the post around the 18-second mark, they were waiting until around 10 or 12. This year’s team has the guards that can create a shot with only 10 seconds left in the shot-clock, but the circumstances were different on Saturday.
UofL played zone most of the game, excluding two random man-to-man possessions out of the last six. UK’s offense was effective when Tyler Ulis penetrated the zone, or found somebody in the middle to break it down. Ulis had the hot-hand, but it takes the little guy a little longer to find an open look or create an opportunity for someone else. It’d be different if Jamal Murray was in the zone — he only needs about 3 seconds to get a decent look — but starting the offense with 10 seconds or less under these circumstances is maddening.
The object of the game is to have more points than the other team when the clock reads 0:00. For 36 minutes you’re trying to score more points than the other team, so why should you spend the last 4 minutes simply trying to get to 0:00? Changing your style and tempo of play can change the momentum of the game and mentality of the players. There’s a method to the madness, but the shift shouldn’t be so dramatic that every idiot in the world watching knows that you’re holding the ball.
Even though Cal probably won’t change, if they could start the offense just a little sooner down the stretch, the collective sanity of the Commonwealth would greatly appreciate it.