Waiting for the perfect shot

I was at the Bulls vs. Knicks game last night. What a great ending: the perfect shot in the last second. Here is the recap of the last minute:

The Bulls were ahead 102-99 after Songaila hit two free throws with 51.1 seconds left in overtime. Crawford went 2-of-3 from the line after being fouled by Andres Nocioni to make it a one-point game. After Nocioni converted two foul shots with 8.3 seconds left, Crawford’s 3 tied it at 104.

There were 4.6 seconds left. Gordon saved the day by scoring in the last second (tenth of a second to be precise). It was awesome.

All this made me wonder: why do we bother – those of us who do:) – watching the first three quarters of basketball games? So much happens in the last few minutes almost regardless of what happened up until then. This is a layperson’s view and I certainly don’t have the stats to back this up, but it seems to me that this is quite often the case. Sure, we watch the game, because of the sheer enjoyment of the sport. Still, it seems that few sports competitions have as much riding on such a tiny last segment of the game as basketball.

So do we watch to figure out the optimal last-minute strategy? The Bulls did a horrible job with free throws last night so it was an especially good bet to foul them in the last few seconds. But would there have been a different strategy to retrieve the ball if they had not been doing so poorly on that front? I’m not saying that we have to be rational about our sports-viewing habits, but sitting through an entire basketball game seems particularly irrational.

UPDATE: I realize something out-of-the-ordinary happened at this game that I didn’t even really mention: the fact that one of the Knicks players ran into the stands. Frankly, from where I was sitting, this was easy to miss. There was some commotion at some point and then we saw a player leave the field, but it was not clear what had happened until I got home and checked the news.

6 Responses to “Waiting for the perfect shot”

  1. Kutt Says:

    Regardless of the object, when there is a sufficient amount of love mixed with the rush of passion, the foreplay is as important as the conclusion. You may be passionate about the game, but you obviously don’t love it … ;-) That’s why Cub fans keep filling the park year after year (and why some marriages endured for years before viagra)

  2. eszter Says:

    I didn’t say I don’t watch the whole game, I just said that I thought it was a pretty irrational thing to do. I sat through yesterday’s NU-Illinois game just as I have sat through lots of other Northwestern games. All this may be a bit different for college sports anyway though.

  3. Kutt Says:

    And what I am saying is that it is not irrational.

    This is a very American (and I am) malady. Everything is focused on the win-lose aspect and not the process. (Last one to the Zen center is a rotten egg). Much of the beauty and enjoyment comes from the process of arriving at the end result. Its how the race car driver positions himself for the final lap. Its the grace of the moves, the strategy and the logic. In basketball its the plan and the planning, how your team matches up with the other, how they change their game to counter your opponents strengths and how you over come your weaknesses. It’s enjoying the thousands of little contests that take place each time a player moves down the floor against his opponent.

    The beauty of a love story is in the courting … not in the consummation.

    It is not irrational.

  4. eszter Says:

    Thanks for persisting.:) I am with you on this to some extent. After all, I actually consider myself a pretty rational being and I still go to these games. I do enjoy the nice plays.

    In general, I think my comments are more relevant for the NBA vs college basketball (although I realize you’re probably generalizing it to all). College teams are different enough that the first half may well determine the rest of the game.

    I do think that in the pro games there is much much more emphasis on the last few minutes and so the game is just that much more exciting then. I didn’t mean to suggest that the only matter of interest is who wins.

    By the way, how about this scenario: have five quintiles where the winner of the game is the best three out of five. Then the end of each quintile would matter quite a bit. It may well be unsustainable though in terms of energy levels (or in terms of number of interruptions due to fouls).

  5. Kutt Says:

    Ah … you are watching the Austrailian Open this weekend too!

  6. Jeremy Says:

    I just realized: wasn’t this the game where the Knicks player ran into the stands. Which is one of the biggest NBA stories of the year so far, and you were there, and it went unblogged?