MIAMI (AP) — The NBA has seen plenty of Garbage Time drama lately.
Often, Garbage Time – the final minutes of a blowout – is either forgettable, unwatchable or both. But it’s been noteworthy lately, with Phoenix extending a loss at Boston last month with fouls and time-outs so Devin Booker could score 70 points, JaVale McGee‘s late 3-point try earlier this week with Golden State drubbing the Wizards and Lance Stephenson‘s late layup in a Pacers blowout of the Raptors.
Shots aren’t always the issue. Miami’s Erik Spoelstra learned that during his first season as Heat coach, and the memory of what occurred on Dec. 26, 2008, has stayed with him.
The Heat were beating Chicago 90-77 with 31 seconds remaining. Spoelstra called a 20-second time-out just to get starters Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem out of the game. And on the other bench, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, assistant coach Del Harris and some Chicago players were more than a little annoyed.
Spoelstra thought about calling time in a similar situation earlier this season to get center Hassan Whiteside out of the game. He didn’t, and seconds later Whiteside cut his right hand on a freak play and needed 13 stitches.
“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Spoelstra said.
The latest episode came Tuesday, with Stephenson making an uncontested layup with 4 seconds left in Indiana’s 108-90 win over Toronto instead of running out the clock. The Raptors, predictably, were not happy and got in Stephenson’s face to let him know. Some on-court arguing ensued.
“Bush league,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
“Tasteless, classless,” added Toronto’s P.J. Tucker.
Countered Stephenson, who apologized: “I didn’t mean no harm.”
Intent can be in the eye of the beholder.
Just ask Brooks, the Wizards coach knows all about the etiquette of Garbage Time. He will not use that term, for a very simple reason.
“I was in there a lot,” Brooks said.
Brooks, a reserve for all but seven games in his 10-year playing career, got an unwanted refresher course of sorts in Garbage Time when McGee jacked up a 3-pointer in the final seconds of a game that the Warriors were leading the Wizards by 22 points.
McGee took a shove to the chest from an annoyed Brandon Jennings, who felt it wasn’t in accordance with what’s proper in Garbage Time.
“Kind of disrespectful,” Jennings said of McGee’s shot.
If Garbage Time had an official set of rules, atop the list would be something about not disrespecting opponents. These days, not everyone is adhering.
“If you’re ahead in the game, there is no reason to shoot the ball,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We just sort of hold the ball. No use angering people or trying to show somebody up. … You should do whatever is sportsmanlike and courteous. No reason not to.”
Cleveland veteran forward Richard Jefferson was among many players who said everyone knows there’s a code for how to handle Garbage Time. And he’s been on both sides of that code.
There was a game in 2006 against Houston when Jason Kidd, now the Milwaukee coach, was one assist shy of a triple-double in the final moments of a decided game. New Jersey was up by 10, and the shot clock was off.
Jefferson volunteered to help Kidd out. He made a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Assist No. 10 was delivered, triple double wrapped.
“We’re just kind of standing around and he tosses it to me and I shot it and it goes in and the Houston Rockets were” angry, Jefferson said. “And J. Kidd was like, `Don’t worry, I’ll take the heat for it’ and walked off. It was a low-blow move, but I’ll tell you what, if my point guard asked me to do that, I’ll do it again.”
Heat point guard Goran Dragic has no problem with that.
He was taught to play the game the same way, start to finish.
“Back in Europe, there are different rules,” said Dragic, a native of Slovenia. “If there’s time on the clock, we play, we shoot it. In the States, there’s a different culture.”
The Warriors offered the Wizards apologies for McGee’s 3-point try, with coach Steve Kerr reaching out to Brooks by text. The Suns took a decidedly different tact after Booker’s 70-point outburst, which some players found a bit distasteful.
“So what? Do something about it,” Suns coach Earl Watson said that night in Boston. “Simple as that.”
There’s no perfect answer.
Sometimes, in Garbage Time, the only plays that get noticed are the questionable ones.
“Play the right way,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “If you’re always coaching guys to do that, you can always look at yourself in the mirror and get the respect of your opponents.”
AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno in Washington, Michael Marot in Indianapolis, Tom Withers in Cleveland and Associated Press Writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.