A lot of us have said that for the most part Tim Floyd is great game coach. Yes the Oregon St. game in Corvallis definitely pissed a lot of us off probably because after hearing time and again how great a game coach he is the Oregon St. game sure didn't look like it.
Last night Floyd pulled a rabbit out of his hat; first with coming out in the second half with the full court press that frustrated ASU (which was ballsy in and of itself) and then the "switch" on Harden.
All of the local papers have the breakdown on the "switch" but Mark Kriegel of Fox Sports does a real nice job of all the different story lines associated with the play.
In his last timeout, with 42 seconds on the clock, Tim Floyd told his best defender to do something he hadn't done all season. Don't fight over the screen, said the coach, make the switch.
The object of this unanticipated directive was Taj Gibson, a 6-foot-9 junior from Fort Greene, Brooklyn. With USC suddenly up a point in a thrilling finale to the Pac-10 Tournament, Gibson had a pretty good idea what this would mean.
The game, the conference championship, and an NCAA bid, would come down to him and James Harden, Arizona State's presumptive lottery pick. Problem was, the matchup would begin on the perimeter, which conferred a natural advantage to Harden, a guard, a born scorer, but also, a player with a knack of drawing defenders and feeding teammates for easy baskets. As it happened, the Pac-10's leading scorer already had nine assists, one fewer than Floyd's entire USC team.
Harden and Pendergraph were a deadly 1-2 punch all evening...they were definitely clicking. In fact the stat line is all Harden and Pendergraph. Glasser was pretty effective as well but not like the other two working in tandem.
This was a classic showdown between the Pac-10's top defensive player and an offensive machine that is sure to do well in the NBA. Harden may be quick and shifty but like the old saying goes age and experience will always out do youth and speed.
It went down just as he knew it would. ASU's big man, Jeff Pendergraph, set a screen for Harden, who had been bringing up the ball since Floyd — whose team found itself down 15 at the half — went to a frenetic, if haphazard, man-to-man press. Gibson made the switch, then found himself guarding the guard, a few steps over the half-court line.
Harden worked his way down the key, Gibson thinking: Oh man, that rocker step is coming. Just stay down. Coach has faith in you. Don't let him down. I been in this situation many times ...
In essence it wasn't so much that Harden was unstoppable, we had already seen what he was doing to SC for most of the game, than it was more that everyone knew what was coming and ASU dared SC to stop it.
And stop it they did...
It would be nice to say that the great player made a great move. But the fact is, all that was great about that sequence was the defense. Gibson came away with a block, his fourth of the game. "Got my palm on it," he said. "My whole palm."
And that was that...
Floyd does the right thing in giving his players all the credit.
"It wasn't any coaching," said Floyd. "We just told them to muck the game up, start trapping and doubling. I wish I could tell you we did something really tricky, but we didn't. It was about the heart of these guys."
A coach and tell you anything but you still have to do it inside the lines. Not having practiced the full court press and then executing it to put your team into a position to win is all about the players talent. Same with making the switch...Floyd saw the opportunity but Gibson had to execute it.
There is no denying that many of us were frustrated with the performance of this team throughout the season. There is just too much talent on this team to have it go down to the wire. We understand about injuries, but as Kriegel points out in his piece all teams go through it and the top teams over come it so we all felt that this team had enough talent to soldier on even through the tough times. Floyd definitely showed how good he can be but questions still remain about the poor FT shooting, the inability to inbound the ball in crunch time and this teams knack for blolwing double-digit leads. Yes the players make some boneheaded moves but some of it also falls on the coaching.
You take the good (last years ucla win) with the bad (this years Oregon St. loss) even when you want to put your fist through the wall. Last nights win showed us a little of both. I have no delusions about this team going into the tournament. If they play like they did in the 2nd half last night you copuld see a team go deep into the tourney. If they play like they didn in the 2nd half of the OSU game then it will a quick exit.
So we look ahead to the Big Dance and put the other stuff aside for now. This team really dug down deep and they have been rewarded for it...but that's now in the past, time focus on the Tournament.