The Anatomy of a Comeback

By Kevin Sweeney

Fans, you’ve all been here before.  Your team is trailing by 10 with 5 minutes left.  You still have life, but it doesn’t look good.  In fact, based on a Ken Pomeroy simulation in 2010, in a game between 2 even teams on a neutral court, a team trailing by 10 with 5 minutes to play has just a 5.8% of winning.  You think back to that impossible comeback you saw last week and say, “if they can do it, so can we.”  So how does your team turn it around?

Pick up the Pace- This is the most obvious one on the list.  Simply, more possessions gives you a better chance of winning.   Opening the game up can leave a team vulnerable to being blown out, but at some point, you’d rather lose by 20 by giving yourself a chance than pack it in and leave yourself no chance.  Also, speeding the game up can help force turnovers on defense.

Dominate the Glass- In order to make a big comeback, you HAVE to dominate on the boards.  Holding up on defense for the entire shot clock only to give the ball right back on an offensive rebound.  Plays like that are demoralizing  and take a huge chunk out of the clock.  And the defensive glass isn’t the only important spot.  A few offensive rebounds give your team new life and often provide easy baskets.

Use Time-Outs Wisely- As the clock ticks lower and lower, time-outs become a team’s lifeline.  After a made basket, a time-out is a smart move by the shot-makers in order to set up the press.  Therefore, the trailing team can’t afford to make mistakes that would lead to wasted time-outs, such as having trouble getting the ball inbounds.  Wasting timeouts makes it so much more difficult to complete a comeback.

Let Stars Lead the Way- Your team’s star is the key to a comeback.  Whether or not they have struggled during the rest of the game, they have the ability to change the game quicker than anyone else on the floor.  Most stars pick it up the most when the lights are brightest, so trust that your guy can put the team on his back and lead the way to victory.

Hope For Some Luck- Basketball is a game of inches.  One bounce of the ball can completely change the complexion of the game.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how great a play your team drew up for the buzzer-beater if the ball falls off the rim.  Sometimes, you just have to put yourself in the best position to succeed in the closing moments and hope the ball bounces your way.


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