Remember when Jason Kidd appeared to be in completely over his head as coach of the Nets?
Kidd, now coaching the Bucks, has come a long way since.
But not too far.
With the Bucks up three and 1.4 seconds left in their win over the Cavaliers last night, Kidd ordered Khris Middleton to intentionally miss a free throw.
Kidd, via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“We talked about it as he walked to the free throw line,” Kidd said. “My first response was to miss the second one. We’ll take the bet of someone making it from the other side of the floor. … If we did make that free throw, our luck they get it in-bounds at half-court and we foul the 3-point shooter and it’s a four-point play. We’ll take our chances with them heaving a full-court shot.”
LeBron James grabbed a rebound and came incredibly close given the circumstances – which still isn’t close at all – to making a game-tying full-court shot.
Allowing Cleveland that opportunity was a preventable error. Middleton making the free throw would have clinched the game. If he could tell Middleton to miss, why couldn’t Kidd tell his players not to foul under any circumstance? Absent a four-point play – which would have been practically impossible if the Bucks decided to avoid fouling – the Cavs had no path to victory. Kidd allowed one.
It’s not the first time Kidd implemented a silly strategy while protecting a late lead.
Up four against the Pistons, who had the ball with 9.6 seconds left, Milwaukee intentionally fouled a couple weeks ago.
Kidd, via Velazquez:
“They’re trying to play the game of quick twos to save their timeouts, so we’ll just play the free-throw game with them,” Kidd said. “I believe that my guys will make the free throws. They miss one and it works. It’s a free-throw game no matter what, but we wanted to send them to the line and it worked out.”
Intentionally fouling up four might be logical in the right circumstances. Trying to prevent a quick two absolutely isn’t sound reasoning. Kidd saw the Pistons trying to get a quick two and gave them a good chance at an even quicker two points via free throws.
The Bucks fouled Reggie Jackson, a career 86% free-throw shooter. He’s prone to fatigue late in games, so maybe that mark doesn’t represent his true odds on those specific attempts. But the risk that comes with extending the game, especially with more inbound passes, always dangerous, doesn’t come close to offsetting that.
The Bucks won both games, but teams up three with 1.4 seconds left and up four with 9.6 seconds almost always win anyway. If Kidd keeps whiffing on these strategic decisions, though, Milwaukee will blow more than its fair share of these leads.
This should also raise questions about just what else Kidd doesn’t understand.