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For coaches, being able to manage the game late can mean the difference between winning championships and being considered a "genius" or being labeled an "idiot" and being fired.  Great coaches are able to manage situations late and put their players in a position to win games.

All you have to do is think about what happened in 1983 with North Carolina State and Houston.  The ability of Jim Valvano to manage the game late against Guy Lewis was the big difference in deciding the conclusion of one of the most exciting games in basketball history.  Valvano managed the last five minutes better than Lewis and NC State came from behind to win the national championship.

I want to address three situations based on the score and some ideas on how you can improve your team's handling of situations late in the game.  What else do you have to lose except more games?

Playing with a Lead Late

Depending on where you are late in the game, you have to determine whether or not you need to score points or run the clock.  If you can get a double-digit lead in the last three minutes, you can then think about trying to run the clock.  If you have a single-digit lead and more than one minute remaining, you need to think about scoring points and expanding your lead. 

If you have a one-possession lead with the ball inside of one minute to go, you need to do both.  You need to run the clock down as much as you can and score at the end of the possession with either free throws or a made basket.  Your offense cannot afford to play not to lose the game.  You need to work to avoid making mistakes late and find ways to increase your lead by any method possible.

From a defensive standpoint, the best thing for you to do is to take away two types of shots: lay-ups and three-pointers.  You want to take away the lay-ups because they are the highest-percentage shots any team can get.  If a team is able to get to the rim and shoot lay-ups, chances are they can get points quickly thanks to the high-percentage nature of a lay-up.

By comparison, the three-point shot has the ability to propel a team back into the game at a faster rate because of the value of a made three point shot.  It take fewer three-pointers to cut a lead than lay-ups.  If you are not allowing lay-ups or threes, then you can force a team into low-percentage two-pointers.  You will then need to grab the rebounds and get into your stall game.

Also, you should consider switching all of your screens.  This will allow you to avoid off-the-ball fouls.  The last thing you want as a coach with a lead is the other team with the opportunity to score with the clock stopped.

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