How many times have we heard an announcer prattle on about how the inbounder is the most dangerous player on an out-of-bounds play? Down by three with 1.5 seconds remaining, the Raptors had the ball on a sideline out-of- bounds play with a chance to tie. Let’s take a look at how the Wizards and Raptors put the “dangerous inbounder” trope to the test.
The Raptors begin the play with Jose Calderon inbounding and Leandro Barbosa running towards the ball, looping around Linas Kleiza and Rasual Butler. Barbosa has no intention of receiving the ball on this play; he is essentially a decoy. Nick Young sticks to him the whole way.
John Wall is perched in the middle of the lane, ready to switch onto any player that comes his way. He and Jordan Crawford exchange assignments when Butler and DeMar DeRozan go opposite directions. This (and the nature of defending a last second possession) leads me to believe the Wizards are looking to switch everything on the play.
The ball is inbounded to Butler inside the three point line with Wall guarding him. If there was more time on the clock, one could expect a foul to prevent the Raptors from getting off a three. With only 1.5 seconds left, the shot is going up almost immediately, so fouling is a risky proposition. If there was a chance to foul in a 1.5 second possession, it would be against a player inside the three point line with his back to the basket. Both of these qualities apply to Butler.
As Butler receives the ball, Barbosa, as was the plan all along, goes to set a screen for Calderon. A few scary moments occur for the Wizards on this action. First, Trevor Booker turns his head and loses track of Calderon. Not seeing where Calderon is going limits his ability to communicate with his teammates.
Next, Nick Young completely ignores Calderon, who is now looping around Barbosa’s screen. Seeing how Booker makes no effort to get around the screen, I stand by my suspicion that the Wizards were switching everything. Young is way too preoccupied with Barbosa, a player that is (1) not looking to get the ball and (2) already covered by Booker. Young misses his assignment to switch onto Calderon who is about to get a wide open look at a game tying three.
So who can the Wizards count on to cover for others’ mistakes? Why, John Wall, of course. As soon as Butler releases the pass, Wall is already running at Calderon to contest the shot. Calderon gets a solid look at the basket, but it comes up short, probably because of Wall’s reaction to impending disaster.
Here’s the complete video of how it all went down:
The Wizards escaped with a win thanks to John Wall’s quick recognition and recovery. Maybe next time Nick Young won’t see the floor for a crunch time defensive possession.