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In the final seconds of the last two games, Gilbert Arenas has come across antithetical defensive philosophies.
Jerry Sloan elected to defend Arenas straight-up, while Isiah Thomas sent two defenders at Arenas and made him surrender the ball.
Arenas hit a 25-footer with a hand in his face to beat the Jazz, while DeShawn Stevenson passed the ball to a cutting Caron Butler for a dunk to beat the Knicks.
Sloan made the correct decision in sticking to basketball being a game of percentages.
Just as a coach does not send his worst shooter to the free throw line to take a technical foul shot, no coach wants to willingly surrender an open shot near the end of a game, especially if a team has two additional marksmen as options, such as Butler and Antawn Jamison.
Arenas may have been in a rhythm against the Jazz, but a hand-in-the-face 25-footer is hardly a high-percentage shot.
It is the kind of shot that Eddie Jordan would object to unless the clock is running out.
At best, given the way Arenas was shooting that afternoon, it was a 50-50 proposition.
And that was the best alternative before Sloan.
Matt Harpring threatened to leave Butler and aid Deron Williams in defending Arenas. But that undoubtedly would have led to a pass to Butler and a wide-open shot.
Butler may not have been at his best against the Jazz shooting 7-for-16, but how reassuring is it to grant an open shot to a player who is having an All-Star season?
Thomas took the opposite approach, which resulted in Arenas passing the ball to Jamison, who then found Stevenson.
Stevenson thought about taking the shot — and he is shooting a career-high 49.8 percent this season — before dribbling through an opening in the broken-down defense of the Knicks and getting the ball to Butler.
If Thomas had embraced Sloan’s tactic, he might have been rewarded with a different outcome.
The decision of Thomas to run two defenders at Arenas at the 25-foot mark throughout the game had proven effective.
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