Dirk Nowitzki hit a beautiful lefty lay-up with 3.6 seconds left on the clock to give the Dallas Mavericks a 95-93 lead over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. With 3.6 seconds left, Miami should have had an opportunity for a real good shot at the basket; heck, Dallas could've gotten another good shot, if things went well for the Heat. At the end of an NBA game, 3.6 seconds is an eternity ...
... unless you're out of timeouts, which the Heat were when Dirk hit the lay-up. As a result, Dwyane Wade had to rush the ball up the court and fling a desperation three (that, shockingly, almost went in). Casual fans complain that the last minute of an NBA Playoff game takes an hour to watch. Regrettably, given the stakes and drama, this one only took about a minute.
Every coach would love to have a timeout for situations just like that which the Heat faced, but Spoelstra didn't exactly waste his timeouts -- he used them up trying to stop the Mavericks' run. They obviously weren't successful. Spoelstra used one after Jason Terry leaked out and got an open lay-up after Mario Chalmers' miss with under six minutes to go; neither the Miami offense nor its transition defense improved from that point. He used another after a few atrocious shots by LeBron James, and seemed to push Wade to get more involved. (He took an awful shot on the following possession.) The final timeout Spoelstra used came with the Heat down 93-90; the play out of that timeout resulted in a wide-open Chalmers three-pointer that quickly tied the game.
It's impossible to blame Spoelstra for any of the timeouts he actually took, even if it would have been a whole lot better for Miami if he'd had one with 3.6 seconds left. The coach was trying to prevent the Heat collapse. It didn't work, timeout or not.
For more on the aftermath from the Heat side, visit Peninsula Is Mightier.