Getting the basketball inbounds late in games is something taken completely for granted whenever we are watching a NBA game. We always assume that the basketball will be inbounded and worry about the guys on the court and what they are doing, when in actuality, getting the basketball inbounds is probably the hardest part of any late set. In this week’s Savvy/Shabby, we are going to look at Jason Terry and his heads-up play as he caught a late inbounds pass and Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller, whose tiny mistakes led to a bobbled pass on the Heat’s final possession.

Jason Terry’s Heads-Up Decision

After the Miami Heat went for a quick two, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves up one point with nine seconds left. Coming out of their final timeout, the Mavericks needed to get the basketball inbounds and they had to do it without the benefit of having a timeout to bail them out. The Mavericks spread the court out, and with Dirk Nowitzki getting doubled, the inbounds target becomes Jason Terry:

With Jason Terry curling off of Dirk Nowitzki, it puts LeBron James in a trail position and gives Terry a little bit of space as he runs up the baseline looking for the basketball. Worried about a five second call, Jason Kidd lets the inbounds pass go a little bit early. Instead of catching the basketball on the fly, Terry lets it bounce once and he gains possession of it in the backcourt.

The reason why this is a savvy play is because if Terry catches the ball on the fly, he establishes possession in the front court, and when his momentum takes him into the backcourt, it would be a backcourt violation. A few years ago, the NBA changed their rules regarding backcourt violations, allowing offenses to pass the basketball to the backcourt in the final two minutes of the game. Terry was well aware of the rule, knew that if he let the basketball bounce, he could pick it up in the backcourt without penalty. That happens and Terry is able to wasted 2.3 seconds before getting fouled and hitting both foul shots.

Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller’s Inbound Flub

After Jason Terry hit both free throws, the Miami Heat were down three points with 6.7 seconds left in the game. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra ran a pretty fantastic play that resulted in Dwyane Wade flashing towards the basketball open, but a pass slightly off the mark from Mike Miller and Dwyane Wade’s poor fundamentals results in a bobbled pass:

Picking up the play halfway through, we have Dwyane Wade flashing back to the basketball and getting a second screen from Chris Bosh after flaring away from the basketball on the first one. With LeBron James in the corner and a pump fake from Mike Miller, it forces Tyson Chandler to shift that way in an attempt to take the corner pass away.

Look at all of the space that Spoelstra’s playcall created. Mike Miller has a clear passing lane to make the pass to Wade and nobody is going to be able to step up to Wade coming off the screen. As Wade curls off of Bosh’s screen, he is a little farther out than he wants to be, and this forces him to curl in a little bit more towards the three-point line, instead of running straight to Mike Miller and the ball.

Instead of passing to the space where he thinks Dwyane Wade will be, Mike Miller passes the basketball to where Dwyane Wade is, leaving the ball a little bit behind him. Still, this should be a simple catch, but Wade takes his eyes off of the basketball a little bit before he should while looking to find his spot on the court. To his credit, Wade refused to throw Miller under the bus and said it was a good pass and it was on him for bobbling it.

As the basketball heads towards the backcourt line, Dwyane Wade makes a tremendous play to save the ball, prevent a backcourt violation, and get it to Mike Miller. Miller is forced to take a contested shot that goes begging. Here is the play in real time:

Both Mike Miller and Dwyane Wade were at fault here. If Mike Miller leads Wade towards the three-point line (and with Tyson Chandler taking away the corner pass, that would have been easy to do), Wade can just step into the pass and take a shot off of the catch. However, the pass is slightly behind him. Wade is at fault because once the pass is behind him, he still needs to make the catch. Instead of looking the basketball in, Wade takes his eyes off of the ball (probably to survey the defense), and it results in him bobbling the pass.

Getting the ball inbounds during pressure situations is a skill that takes players (both the inbound passer and the man making the catch) a while to master. You don’t realize how difficult it is until you see someone make a great play or a poor play.