Sometimes team sports is a lot like group projects. I remember mostly hating group projects when I was a student, largely because I ended up doing the vast majority of the work while others got an easy A out of it. My experience with this phenomenon in group sports is more the reverse, in that I played as part of a pretty mediocre basketball team in a church league as a young teenager whose problem was that we had two showboating “stars” whose modest achievements did not match the excessive volume at which they wanted the ball. Many games were 5 on 2, with the rest of the players limited to rebounds, assists, and the occasional block or steal (we weren’t that talented so there weren’t too many of those) and sometimes our team ended up winning even though the other team tended to know so quickly that some of us weren’t shooting the ball that we weren’t even covered. There was, of course, a very obvious reason why I was not covered, and that is because I was not very good at shooting the ball. In fact, I only shot the ball five times during the entire year I played on the team, and only made one basket, and it took the other team several seconds to figure out that I had scored when I did because they had no one guarding me nor any reason that they saw for guarding me.
It felt like that tonight as I was watching the third quarter of the game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. Throughout the entire game, the Heat missed 38 three point attempts, an unfathomable amount of misses that was a team record–and I’m surprised it was not an NBA record given just how often they jacked up bricks from beyond the arc. They failed to make any baskets at all for the first half of the third quarter, and during one possession I saw them make three attempts at a 3 and got none of them, the last one leading to a Boston transition possession that helped take the game more and more out of hand. It was embarrassing to watch. One might have thought that the purpose of play during a game of team sports like basketball was for the team to win, but yet there was no attempt anywhere to drive and make contact for a frustratingly long period of time. If the shots aren’t falling from beyond the arc, try to draw fouls and get free throw attempts, try to get layups, try to get dunks, try anything that might work better, but no, they wanted to hoist up three attempts that often did not even hit the rim or sometimes even the backboard. It was terrible.
The goal of a team is to win, but sometimes they forget that. If a shot isn’t falling, the best way to help the team win is to find something that works. If you keep on clanging up bricks and they don’t fall in, find a place where you have an advantage, where the shot is going to fall easier. If you have an advantage somewhere, take that advantage. If it is better shooters from range, shoot from range, if it is from mid-range, shoot from there, if it is in the paint, then crash the boards and score from closeup, however you can manage to do it. The goal is to win, so win already. Why is that so hard?