This post came from an online discussion about what to do when shooting a free throw at the end of the game down 3, but is also worth putting some thought in regarding being down 2 when shooting one free throw.
This post is not to say that this is the only way to and THE way you should handle this situation. This is what I believe is best, but the main purpose of the post is to provide food for thought to establish your philosophy and then to implement it in practice to be able to prepare for a game.
This situation is something that needs to be covered by the first game, but at some point in the season, practicing these types of scenarios keeps practices interesting, does not require a lot of running and jumping when you are cutting back on that during late season practices, and is good preparation for post season play.
End of game, shooting the second of two free throws down 3 points, what do you do?
Regardless of what you do, there is not doubt that this is a difficult situation to pull off and no matter how well prepared you are, there is a very low percentage of times that this will ever work. That is why I believe in fouling at the end of a game where you have a 3 point lead. Here is the link to the article that I wrote about that: Foul at the End to Preserve a 3 Point Lead
If there are 8 seconds or more remaining
I would want the player to try to make the free throw (not miss on purpose), have a sub at the scorers table so that after the free throw goes in, we can match up in a man to man press while the substitute is coming onto the floor, and try to get into a press to force am immediate turnover and if no turnover, foul immediately.
If we miss the free throw, then our players in the offensive rebound spots should go after the offensive rebound aggressively and if we can’t get the ball, at least get an over the back foul on the rebound to stop the clock.3 or 2 Seconds.
(If there is one second remaining, I think you are better off trying to make the free throw and then force a turnover on the inbounds as you don’t have enough time to miss, rebound, and call timeout.)
I count each end of game action as 1 second. So, if there are 3 seconds left, you have 1 second of that to shoot, with the remaining 2 seconds available for a combination of dribbles and passes. However, in this case, I believe that the scramble for the ball could take 2 seconds, so I would call timeout upon gaining possession of the offensive rebound and then have either a BLOB or a SLOB for a 3 to run out of the timeout.
4 to 7 second remaining
Missing the free throw intentionally. I believe that the best way to miss a free throw for this situation (when trailing) is to hit it off the rim as hard and quickly as possible. Obviously, you would need to have practiced that and your rebounders would need to know what to expect so they could be ready. You can have a call to remind the players of what they will be doing.
As soon as the shooter receives the ball from the official, he or she shoots as quickly and hard off the rim as possible. I believe that if your offensive rebounders are ready and the defense is not ready for the quick and hard miss, throwing it hard will give you a higher percentage chance to get the offensive rebound than a soft miss off the iron like you would shoot as a coach for a defensive rebounding drill.
The teaching point in practice for the shooter/thrower is quick and hard are important, but the most important key is accuracy in hitting the rim. I have seen this play attempted where the shooter shot quickly, but missed the rim or crossed the line before the ball hit the rim. I know most players know the rules, but I think you have to overemphasize those details in practice so that they are what the player is concentrating on when walking to the line. I like to give them points to think about in pressure situations to help calm their mind under pressure.
If there are 4 to 8 seconds remaining, I believe that you have time to get the rebound and get the ball to a shooter behind the arc. I also believe that the defense will be in scramble mode and it is best to attack them in that state. Have your designated spots for the shooters to get to. The rebounder should know where to expect the shooters to be to throw the ball to so they don’t have to look and find the shooters. Only call timeout if they can’t get the pass to the shooters.
I think you can experiment with either having the free throw shooter go for the rebound or drift back for a 3. I don’t think you can stress it enough in practice that the shooter has to wait until the ball hits the rim if you choose to have him or her crash. I think he would be the most likely to be unguarded for a 3, but obviously, you have to get the rebound so it is risky to send the free throw shooter to the arc. I also think it would depend on who is shooting the free throw. Some guys I would rather rebound than get behind the arc. You could also experiment with using the shooter as a screener to get a shooter open because I doubt he would be guarded and that would eliminate a switch.
It has been my experience that players try to beat the clock which means that they end up hurrying and either making a mistake or shooting an alligator arms shot. They have to have a mindset that they are going to use up every fraction of a second in order to execute properly. There is not going to be enough time for an offensive rebound.
If it is high school, without video replay, I think the most important thing in getting the call on a gray area is to make the basket. It might be counted even if late. But, if you throw up less than your best shot in an effort to beat the clock, those will never go in and the officials don’t have to make a decision.