The smile widened on Byron Scott’s face. His voice sounded at ease. Scott appeared noticeably relaxed as he sat at the podium talking about a rare Lakers’ win.
But this wasn’t just any ordinary victory. The Lakers secured a 118-111 overtime win against the hated Boston Celtics on Sunday at Staples Center, an outcome that snapped a seven-game losing streak and provided nostalgia and competitive moments in a rivalry usually playing out in June.
“I enjoy this a lot more,” Scott said, grinning. “I’m a happy man tonight.”
Yet, Scott’s feeling of ecstasy could have easily vanished had the Lakers not held Boston scoreless for nearly a four-minute stretch in overtime, while both Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Wesley Johnson provided key baskets. Celtics guard Avery Bradley forced the game into overtime after hitting a 25-foot three-pointer as time expired, a play that could have been avoided had the Lakers intentionally fouled beforehand.
After all, the Lakers also refused to foul Milwaukee Bucks forward and former USC product O.J. Mayo three weeks ago only for him to make a corner 24-foot 3-pointer with .5 seconds left to force overtime. The Bucks won, 113-105, in extra regulation.
“That’s twice I was thinking about it and they hit a three and went into overtime,” Scott said. “I don’t know if I’ll think about it next time. I might just do it. I don’t know yet.”
Why does Scott still feel indecisive after seeing his approach backfire twice this month already?
“That’s something I’ve never done,” Scott said. “But this year for some reason, it has evened out from my coaching career. I never intentionally fouled guys. But this year has been crazy. They’ve hit a couple of 3’s to get it into overtime.”
NBA and college coaches have varying opinions on whether to foul on a last play that could force overtime.
A player could immediately hoist a shot up that might go into the basket before the team intentionally fouls the player. If the player’s shot attempt falls short, he could still either tie the game or gain an extra possession off a missed free throw. Time could also still remain in the game to allow that team to get the ball back either after a miss or defensive stop.
But in the Lakers’ case, an intentional foul would have forced Bradley to make two free throws while Boston trailed 106-103 with 8.2 seconds left. Even if Boston somehow got the rebound off an intentionally missed foul shot on the second attempt, the Celtics would not have as much time and offensive organization to execute a play.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” said Lakers guard Jeremy Lin, who defended Bradley on the play. “They’ve done their research on it. They told me the results are kind of mixed and that fouling isn’t necessarily better. That’s just one of their decisions. We go out and execute.”
The Lakers did not execute that play well or by coughing up a 10-point lead with 3:31 remaining. But the Lakers still made up for it with contributions from Lin (25 points), Wesley Johnson (22 points), Young (19 points) and Carlos Boozer (12 points). The Lakers also lived up to Scott pleading for them “to get your heads back up” after Avery forced the game into extra regulation.
“We just hung in there and probably shouldn’t have been in overtime,” Scott said. “But I give the guys a lot of credit for being resilient enough to bounce back.”
Scott just hopes that kind of play does not haunt the Lakers again, leaving the team with yet another loss to process.
“A lot of it depends on who is out there on the floor as well,” Lin said. “It’s not always so black and white. It is after they send it into overtime. But if they missed a shot, then maybe everybody is like, ‘That’s a great decision.'”