This is why coaches get big bucks.
The latest post from Harvard Sports Analysis Collective writer John Ezekowitz tackles whether a team trailing by one or two points late in the game benefits by calling a timeout. Unlike his conclusions regarding a tie game (don’t call time out), there’s quite a bit of gray here. His finding:
… the decision to call a timeout when down one or two points is heavily based on situational factors unique to each game. A coach must consider the make-up of his team, the make-up of his opponent, the flow of the game, and his team’s ability to execute set plays (ones drawn up in timeouts). As opposed to the tied game situation, where the data clearly favored the no timeout option, these two situations demand a nuanced decision that is apparently not influenced by an overarching advantage one way or the other.
That’s a tough one. A coach could feel comfortable rolling the dice when the game’s tied, but trailing by one or two points creates a different atmosphere. There’s more pressure and more at stake.
Any coach with an experienced team or a competent point guard would still probably let his guys play. A younger team or a school with a dominant big man might call timeout to set up a specific play.
But will it work? Your guess is as good as the data’s.