View Full Version : Dr. Krzyzewski or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stall

03-14-2010, 11:17 AM
I thought I'd break this out of the post game thread.

From observation and conversation, K consistently slows the pace if we're up by more than twice as many points as minutes left in the game. If we're tired or in foul trouble, he may push it a bit. He's been doing it for decades. We've been stressing and obsessing over it for decades, too. (OK, when we have an absolutely dominant team - i.e., '99 - he hasn't slowed as often, he generally won't slow until the last 10 minutes, etc. This post is for the more common situations.)

The math, as best I can figure it:

Before the other team begins immediate fouling, we can burn about 30 seconds in each stalled possession. Generally we can force the other team to use about 15 seconds per possession. That's a 45-second exchange of possessions, on average.

If we limit them to netting less than 1.5 points per 45-second exchange, we'll win.

If we average just over half a point per possession and hold them to average just under 2 points per possession, the math works. We should be able to average half a point per possession, even if we occasionally (or even three times in a row) get no shot off. On the other hand, it takes an extraordinary performance for a team to average 2 points per possession over multiple possessions. Hold them to under 1.5 points per possession and we don't even have to score.

If the other team does start immediate fouling so that we go to exchanges every 15 seconds instead of 45 seconds, we need to average 1.5 points per possession - that's a 75% shooter shooting 2 (1-and-1 won't last long) while still holding them just under 2 points per possession. We need to inbound to the right players, and make sure everyone can shoot free throws.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Effective? Usually. Induce ulcers? Always.

Some people consider slowing the game to be giving up the initiative. I don't. Like stall ball or not, when we use it we dictate the course of the game. The opponent must react to us. They can play straight up defense or start fouling, and when they start fouling, they admit desperation.

I won't dispute stalling does change the nature of the game considerably. An opponent capable of averaging 2 points or more per possession over a long stretch, though, could also beat us without K slowing the game down.

I'll trust K. And the math.


03-14-2010, 02:09 PM
Dr. Krzyzewski or how i learned to stop worrying about and love the stall?

i love the reference...great movie

03-14-2010, 02:32 PM
I think it works well with this team since we have such reliable free throw shooters and a quick-hitting play for all of our scorers when we don't have much time to work with. It's a good strategy given our current personnel, but in the past I'm not sure it was always the best way to go.

03-14-2010, 02:35 PM
The key the stall ball is you need to have guards that aren't going to turn it over, and the ability to get a good shot in 10 seconds with the floor spread. As long as those are both true (and I think they are with this team) it is a highly effective strategy. I can tell you how non-Duke college basketball games I have seen where I team blew a late lead when stall ball could have iced it for them....

Andre Buckner Fan
03-14-2010, 02:55 PM
The stall ball is okay with me if there is movement. If everyone just stands there, then it's deadly.

03-14-2010, 03:06 PM
My one issue with it is that we don't start any motion until there are eight seconds left on the shot clock. I think it would be much more effective if we started running a play with 12 seconds left. Obviously though, I take solace in knowing that Coach K knows a lot more about basketball than I do.

03-14-2010, 03:13 PM
The stall ball is okay with me if there is movement. If everyone just stands there, then it's deadly.

This is close to what I've been thinking as well.

I am reaching the opinion that stall ball does not significantly affect Duke's ability to score (per possession). If Duke's offense is clicking, it will keep clicking in stall ball. Stall ball is ideal when we have someone who can consistently penetrate and get to the rim or cause the defense to collapse. When Duke's offense has been generally stagnant, a bunch of dribbling around the perimeter, stall ball will make the stagnancy blatantly obvious.

A bunch of people were complaining about the shot clock violations versus Miami. Duke had the same thing happen multiple times today against GT (with some terrible shots at the end of the shot clock) that had nothing to do with stall ball. We just weren't getting penetration or feeding the post. Credit the opposing defenses for limiting our penetration, fault our team for not effectively moving without the ball, but I don't see how stall ball can be blamed for accentuating pre-existing symptoms.

03-14-2010, 03:15 PM
BlueInTheFace said yesterday that he had watched several teams over the years blow big leads late due to not using clock. I agree. I have seen that many times as well. I would say teams that just keep running their offense and taking quick shots lose more leads late than teams that stall do.

One classic example was 2 years ago in the Clemson/unc game at chapel hell. Clemson was smoking the heels by 18 with under 10 to go. They never slowed down to use clock and blew a 10 point lead with less than 3 to go to lose.

Same thing happened to the heels last year at Maryland who blew a big lead with under 5 to go and were up I believe 11 with 1:20 left on the clock..

The K Stall is very effective and works more often than not. The best ever at it were the J-Will teams mainly because he was unstoppable on the high pick and roll.

There has only been one game in all these years where I thought K made a mistake going to the Stall too early. It was the game at BC in JJ's Senior year. It was a tight one possession game until about 10 minutes left and Duke went on a big run using up-tempo offense and built a double digit lead going into the under 8 timeout. Coming out of that TO they went to the stall and it killed the momentum that had just been built. We could not score on the stall and BC came roaring back and it took a great block on the last play of the game by Shelden to save the game.

Other than that, I am fine with it because it leads to wins more often than not. The problem yesterday was execution, not strategy.

Just my opinion but my main worry is always execution rather than the strategy.

03-14-2010, 03:16 PM
The stall ball is okay with me if there is movement. If everyone just stands there, then it's deadly.

I think you're missing the key point of stallball. Offensive efficiency is definitely a secondary concept. The point is to dictate the number of possessions left, and make it virtually impossible for the opponent to have enough possessions to make up the ground.

It's certainly nice when the offense continues to score at a reasonably high efficiency, but that's not the primary objective of stallball.

03-14-2010, 04:47 PM
I think running the clock has worked well for us overall. It always freaks me out but almost always ends well (we win).

What bothers me most is 1. our defense seems to suffer sometimes, so we start running clock and they get easy buckets. And 2. lately we haven't started running the offense soon enough leading to lots of shot clock violations.

I'd be more comfortable with running 18-19 seconds off and then running some set plays where we know we'll get a shot off.

03-14-2010, 04:55 PM
The key the stall ball is you need to have guards that aren't going to turn it over, and the ability to get a good shot in 10 seconds with the floor spread. As long as those are both true (and I think they are with this team).... I actually think this team needs 15 seconds against a decent defense; which is why they have a tendency, fairly often, to try a desperation shot after burning the clock.

03-14-2010, 04:55 PM
I think a large portion of the objection to the stall ball game is by fans who get nervous watching it, especially if it means our lead gets smaller as the game winds down. Thankfully our gameplan is not set up with the fans peace of mind taken into consideration.

Richard Berg
03-14-2010, 08:10 PM
My biggest problem with stall ball is transition defense. If it's apparent we're not going to get a reasonable shot off (say, >25% chance of going in) I'd rather see us simply accept the shot clock violation and set up our half court defense/trap after the whistle is blown. Instead, we sometimes heave up a prayer that goes careening off the rim for a long rebound, or airballs completely allowing for a quick outlet pass. Those opportunities are much, much harder for this particular group of guys to recover from. Meanwhile, barring serious foul trouble, I think we can hold every team in the country to <1.5ppp from a dead-ball inbounds situation.

Other than that, I love the stall. The strategy is brilliant on paper and we also happen to execute it very well. It helps that the '10 team has several players equally capable of nailing a last-second dagger or drawing a foul. With past teams it was even more nerve-racking because you knew that with 5sec left the entire defense would collapse on Luol/JJ/G.