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#pounditTuesday, September 26, 2023

Video: Did Erik Spoelstra cost Heat with late timeout?

Erik Spoelstra reacting

The Miami Heat lost a heartbreaker to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, and many were discussing a decision that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made late in the game.

The Heat and the Raptors played a game for the ages and ended up in double overtime. Miami got a stop with the game tied 114-114, and guard Gabe Vincent appeared to bank in a game-winning shot out of a scramble situation. The problem though was that Spoelstra called for timeout before Vincent shot it. Even the Heat announcers could not believe the timeout call.

Had Vincent’s shot counted, the Heat would have won the game. Instead, Tyler Herro missed a floater out of a set play following the timeout, and the game went into triple overtime. The Raptors went on to win 124-120 in the third overtime period, making for a gut-wrenching loss for the Heat.

Fans were quick to pin the blame on Spoelstra for the timeout call that went awry. But would Vincent’s shot even have counted?

You can actually check it for yourself using the stopwatch feature on your phone. Watch the video above and start your timer at the five-second mark on the game clock for a frame of reference. Then stop your timer when you see the ball leave Vincent’s hands.

We tried it for ourselves and did so three times to try to be as accurate as possible. Our results were 5.24 seconds, 5.13 seconds, and 5.18 seconds. Keep in mind that, by our example, Vincent would have needed to get the ball out in under five seconds. That leads us to believe that the shot would not have counted, even if Spoelstra had let his team play it out.

Objectively speaking, Spoelstra’s decision was the right one as well. Calling a timeout allowed Spoelstra to get his best players on the floor and draw up an out-of-bounds play, something that he is one of the best in the NBA at. That is a much better plan than relying on a miracle shot in a chaotic transition sequence. Even if the decision did not work out in the end, you live by it because it is the right call strategically.

The Heat were playing on the second night of a back-to-back as part of a stretch of three games in four nights. That makes this loss, in triple overtime no less, particularly agonizing. But while bad timeouts by coaches have cost teams games before, the timeout by Spoelstra was probably not one of them.


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