Reggie Miller bizarrely questions whether Lakers should miss free throw that could seal game

For a player who orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoffs history, one would think Reggie Miller would understand late-game math a little better than this.

While calling the Lakers’ 110-106 win over the Pelicans on Tuesday, Miller questioned whether Anthony Davis should hit a free throw while leading by three points with 2.7 seconds left.

Even the biggest contrarians would agree that indeed the answer is always go up by four points.

“Here’s things that you talk about on the bus as players,” Miller said with the Lakers leading, 109-106, during the play-in tournament. “If he makes the first one, you’re up three. Do you try to purposely miss the second one, knowing that they have no timeouts…”

“They have no timeouts,” TNT’s Kevin Harlan interjected.

Miller finished: “And they’ve got to go coast-to-coast. Because as soon as you miss, time is going to start as soon as it’s touched. Or do you make it be up four, and game over? These are things that are discussed as teams.”

We sure hope that this type of discussion lasts all of 0.001 seconds or the Lakers’ in-game strategist may be the most overpaid employee in the world.

Especially in this context.


Reggie Miller's math did not add up.
Reggie Miller’s math did not add up. Getty Images

While it’s always optimal to lead by four points, it’s especially advantageous when the other team does not have a timeout and thus cannot advance the ball.

Keeping the game within three points opens the chance for a loss, while going up four points in this situation puts the chances of a stunning loss about as close to zero as one can get.


Reggie Miller questioned whether Anthony Davis should miss this free throw.
Reggie Miller questioned whether Anthony Davis should miss this free throw. @NBA/YouTube

Miller’s point on the Pelicans having to scramble off a miss would have made sense had the lead been two points, not three, since then, in theory, the free throw would not clinch the game.

But even then, that strategy is better employed at the collegiate level, where the players are not as talented, and especially not with 2.7 seconds remaining.

For an NBA team, that’s plenty of time to produce an OK shot.

Davis, as you’d expect, did not intentionally miss the free throw, instead hitting it to go up by four and advance the Lakers to a Western Conference Finals rematch with the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.


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