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Should the Wizards have fouled on LeBron’s shot to force overtime?

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As us Wizards faithful try to regroup from Monday night’s overtime thriller by scrolling through endless ‘Moral Victory’ tweets, one must ask the age-old question: To foul or not to foul? The Wizards were up 118-117 as John Wall went to the line to knock down two free throws making the score 120-117 with 3.4 seconds remaining. The Cavs had no timeouts remaining and as we know, this happened:

The Wizards were up three, with 3.4 seconds remaining so should Washington had fouled James prior to him shooting his three-point shot?

Let’s revisit the play.

To no one’s surprise, the Cavs have clearly worked on this one before. As you can see here, the Wizards put Morris and Porter on the blocks in hopes of getting the offensive rebound if there was a miss. Oubre and Beal are out of the picture and since we know the outcome, we can assume Beal was guarding James at the other end of the court while Oubre was on Irving until Wall found him after sinking the free throw.

Love then throws a 70-foot chest pass to LeBron James on a string.

James catches the ball with 3.4 seconds remaining.

If the Wizards were going to foul, this would have been the most opportune time as James clearly is not in a shooting motion and is also inside the three-point arc.

When James releases his shot, it looks as if almost his entire body is out of bounds.

If Beal were to foul here, that would have put James, a 69 percent free-throw shooter to the line for three attempts to tie the game.

But, none of that happened as James sunk the shot to send the game into overtime.

With that said, should the Wizards have fouled on that final possession? No.

Here’s why:

Unless Brooks and Beal predetermined it while Wall was shooting free-throws, the thought likely going through Bradley Beal’s mind was: ‘do anything but foul’ in this situation. Beal played LeBron as best as you could in that situation considering the circumstances. Yes, James came down with the ball, but, Beal was there to contest the shot and made it as difficult as he could.

If Brooks and Beal had not predetermined to foul James, asking him to corral James clearly prior to his shooting motion AND ensuring that he was inside the three-point arc all in a split second would have been a lot to ask.

If he had fouled late, James would be headed to the free-throw line for three free-throws to potentially tie the game.

Secondly, if we’re going to be candid, James threw up a miracle, which he bricked (but luckily hit the backboard at the right angle) only for the ball to go in. That miracle shot was a 30-foot fade away three-pointer as he was falling out of bounds. If James were to practice that shot on an open court with no defender, I’m pretty confident in saying that shot maybe goes in 3-5 times out of 100, and those odds go down as he’s standing alongside the Wizards coaching staff and owner Ted Leonis when he lands.

So to recap, here are the three miraculous sequences that ALL must occur in order for this shot to go in.

  1. Love must throw a perfect 70-foot chest pass to LeBron, with no timeouts to diagram a play.
  2. LeBron must identify where exactly on the court he is, dribble behind the three-point arc and release a shot; all in under 3.4 seconds.
  3. The fading out of bounds 30-foot shot must somehow go in.

When you break this sequence down into these steps, it’s very unlikely that two of these things would happen let alone all three.

Therefore, I believe the Wizards were correct in not fouling on this final possession.

Too many things can go wrong here. Beal would have had to foul James at the perfect timing in-between when he caught the ball and was taking his dribble to the three-point arc and CLEARLY foul him prior to James’ shooting motion. Because, if Beal doesn’t do all this and fouls James on a three-pointer, the narrative today is ‘Beal made a bone headed play on James to keep the Cavs alive.’

It would have been very tough for the Wizards to execute a foul on this play. And keep in mind, I doubt too much time is spent at practice defending these Hail Mary type plays.

It’s easy to Monday Morning Coach this play but the only reason we’re bringing this up is because it’s #SoWizards that the shot went in.