Pat Riley is a Hall of Fame basketball coach who helped usher in two different kinds of basketball despite the fact they were pretty much playing by the same rules.
Back in the 1980s, it was “Showtime” in Los Angeles as he gave Magic Johnson and James Worthy the ball to play their high-tempo style of offensive basketball. But what many people forget was that the very next decade, Riley projected the exact opposite as head coach of the New York Knicks.
Riley’s teams would not only be amongst the leaders in defense for most of his tenure as head coach, but not only because of a pressing style of play, but because he shortened the game by having his players work the ball down, taking time off the shot clock and take a shot close to the end of it, rather than hoist up the first good shot that a player had.
Watch a film of a pro basketball game from the early 1980s and another from the last 20 years or so, and you’ll notice a difference in pace as well as the number of people getting touches on the ball every possession.
But that’s an evolution that occurred over decades.
The imposition of the possession clock in NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse has seemingly not changed the tactics of most teams. They may have a package of concepts or patterns that may evolve over the course of the clock, but thus far, you haven’t seen a team holding the ball in the attack end for 60 seconds, then attack the final 30.
That’s kind of what I was expecting in the final seven or so minutes of yesterday’s Maryland-UNC game, especially with the Terps looking to see out a five-goal lead.
But Maryland had possessions of 27 and 51 seconds in those final minutes, sandwiching another in which the Terps had a shot-clock violation. The final margin was three, and it could have been two but for a UNC turnover as the final minute loomed.
I know, it’s a process. But I think you’re going to see a lot of slow-down lacrosse in the last five minutes late in the season in similar circumstances. Look for teams to seek that perfect shot with the clock heading under 20 seconds when the games get more high-stakes later in May.