Chicago Sun-Times

Missed FT saves Bulls, Del Negro

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Like many of his players, coach Vinny Del Negro is experiencing the intensity of the playoffs for the first time in his current position. Overall, Del Negro did a solid job preparing his team and devising an effective game plan.

But he's fortunate Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce missed the second of two free throws with 2.6 seconds left in regulation, because the Bulls would have lost -- and Del Negro likely would have been fitted for goat horns -- if the shot had fallen.

Here's the situation: If Pierce makes the second free throw, the Celtics have a one-point lead. The Bulls could have called timeout and moved the ball to half-court. A team could expect to draw up a play to get a reasonable look in 2.6 seconds.

But Del Negro had burned all of the Bulls' timeouts by that point, so the Bulls would have had to inbound the ball on the baseline -- 94 feet from their basket.

"It was a big relief," Ben Gordon said of Pierce's miss, "because if he would have made that, we would have had to hit a miraculous shot because I don't think we had any timeouts at that point. That was big for us."

That's why veteran coaches always save a timeout for exactly that situation. Del Negro, though, has a habit of burning all of his timeouts in close games.

I asked Del Negro on Sunday what was going through his mind when Pierce was on the line.

"I didn't think the game should have gotten to that level," he said. "If you think about the game in the third quarter, they made that run - we were up nine at the half - and I didn't call timeouts, because, one, I think as a young team that's a good learning tool for us.

"We have to realize, they're scoring, we're not scoring, they're getting back in the game. We have to get after it defensively. When you're not scoring, you rely on your defense. That's what's going to get us to the next level."

As you can see, he really didn't answer the question.

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This page contains a single entry by John Jackson published on April 19, 2009 3:50 PM.

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