Don't Sleep on NBA's Madness in March

WALTHAM, Mass. – People associate madness, particularly during the month of March, with the NCAA basketball tournament. Brad Stevens wants to remind everyone that madness is alive and well in the NBA, too.

Jeff Green makes a game-winner in Miami

Jeff Green delivered a night of madness for Boston on Nov. 9 when he drilled a game-winner in Miami.
Chris Trotman/NBAE/Getty Images

Stevens learned quickly that the end of an NBA game can pack even more madness than a buzzer-beating runner from half court. In the NBA, even more is possible.

“What’s really interesting is that when you’re in college,” said Stevens, “you want to shoot the ball with four or five seconds left if it’s a tie game because maybe you get a chance at a rebound, and they’re going to have a hard time scoring. Here (in the NBA), you shoot the ball with four or five seconds left and they get a rebound with 3.5 (seconds left), they can advance the ball.”

What Stevens was alluding to is the ability to invoke Rule 5, Section VI(g) of the NBA rulebook, which reads as the following:

“If a 20-second timeout is requested by the offensive team during the last two minutes of the fourth period and/or any overtime period and (1) the ball is out-of-bounds in the backcourt (except for a suspension of play), or (2) after securing the ball from a rebound and prior to any advance of the ball, or (3) after the offensive team secures the ball from a change of possession and prior to any advance of the ball, the timeout should be granted. Upon resumption of play, the team granted the timeout shall have the option of putting the ball into play at the 28' hash mark in the frontcourt or at the designated spot out-of-bounds. If the ball is put into play at the hash mark, the ball may be passed into either the frontcourt or backcourt. If it is passed into the backcourt, the team will receive a new 8-second count.”

This rule allows teams not only to get a closer shot at the basket in crunch time, but more importantly, a better shot at the basket. This isn’t impromptu offense leading to a miracle make. This is scripted, after-timeout offense that results in very specific shot attempts.

Stevens described the possibilities of a last-second possession by saying, “They can get an action, a pass, an action, and a shot.”

And that’s just for the final possession of the game! Just imagine the endless possibilities for the final minute of a close game. As Stevens said, “A seven-point game with three timeouts left with a minute and 10 seconds to go is still very much a game.”

Boston’s coach found this out quickly after his entrance to the NBA. His Celtics pulled off a miracle win just seven games into its season.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat led Boston by four points with just 3.6 seconds remaining in the game. Ahh, but Stevens had saved up two of his timeouts, and they made all the difference in the game.

Stevens called for one timeout at the 3.6-second mark and drew up a play that led to a Gerald Wallace layup. Then, after Dwyane Wade missed two free throws, the coach called for another timeout that led to a game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner that sent Boston to a 111-110 victory.

A five-point swing in 3.6 seconds of play? Now that is madness on a level that collegiate ball could never touch. And it happens all the time. Similar madness was on display as recently as Friday night in Toronto, when the Thunder stunned the Raptors for a 119-118 victory.

“You saw in that Oklahoma City-Toronto game the other day,” Stevens said. “Oklahoma City is down five late and they end up winning the game by one, and it was under a minute when they were down five.”

It was actually worse than what Stevens remembers. The Thunder actually trailed by eight points with just 49.3 seconds remaining yet wound up winning by one. That Miracle in Toronto (we know, it doesn’t sound as sexy as Miracle in Miami) was pretty darn incredible, and it was all made possible because Oklahoma City held onto two of its timeouts for crunch time.

Oh, and because of that little wrinkle the NBA likes to call Rule 5, Section VI(g) of its rulebook.

“I like it. It’s great,” Stevens said of the rule, which led to a game-winning 3 by Kevin Durant on Friday. “What it does is it adds excitement. It adds excitement to the end of a game.”

And it adds an additional level of possibilities that no other madness can match. In short, as Stevens put it, “No lead is safe until that horn sounds.”