Triano on Valley-Oop: Credit Williams’ wrinkles to 2017 Tyson Chandler lob
Among the media corps in attendance for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, many weren’t so sure Deandre Ayton’s above-the-rim finish to close a baseline out-of-bounds play counted. Those who’d covered the team during its darker times over the past decade knew it did.
Among the Suns fans in the stands for the Clippers-Suns game on Tuesday, those who had at least payed attention during Phoenix’s lowest moments in the past several seasons knew, too.
The play began with Phoenix trailing by a point and 0.9 seconds on the clock. Suns forward Jae Crowder pin-pointed a pass with touch that floated just over the well of the basket, allowing Deandre Ayton to guide it in. Had the pass been thrown during a live-ball situation, it would have been a goaltend.
The Clippers didn’t believe they’d suddenly fallen behind with now 0.7 seconds remaining on the game clock.
But Phoenix head coach Monty Williams knew.
So did the man who on Dec. 26, 2017, called a similar out-of-bounds play for the Suns with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock. That play-call in a tie game with the Memphis Grizzlies succeeded when center Tyson Chandler flushed a tiebreaking dunk that was, like Ayton’s, legal.
“It started even before that with the Canadian national team,” former interim Suns head coach Jay Triano told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “We were playing against Mexico … In the international game, you’re allowed to knock it off the rim or knock it into the rim once the ball hits the rim. We had this baseline play and we threw it up to our 7-foot-3 kid, it was Sim Bhullar, and the ball hit the rim and he knocked it in.
“I said, that’s great, and I started thinking, it’s got to still count in the NBA.”
During the league’s annual meetings with referees a year later, Triano posed the question to officials.
Because an inbound can’t go into the hoop for a made basket, it is technically not a shot, they confirmed to him. So goaltending — offensive or defensive — is not a possibility.
Flash forward to the 2017-18 season when he was leading the Suns, and Triano taught his team the rule — and his quirky play — as part of a fun-fact segment of his practices.
“So Tyson and I were talking about it, and it was kind of my play if there was three-tenths (of a second) or less left. I was watching games and thinking, it’s not over, there’s a way. Everybody says you can’t catch it with three-tenths, you can tip it,” Triano said Wednesday.
Later on that year, Phoenix was tied 97-all with the Grizzlies when his players pushed him to give the play a try.
“The whole Memphis team, much like the Clippers last night, were thinking, ‘Oh, it’s goaltending, it’s goaltending, it’s goaltending,'” Triano said. “It’s not.”
On Tuesday night, Triano, who is now an assistant for the Charlotte Hornets, watched the first three quarters of Clippers-Suns but admits to hitting the record button as he was dozing off.
He woke up to more than 100 texts from video coordinators and GMs.
“And they were all saying, ‘That’s the Triano play, congratulations!'” Triano said. “I was like, ‘What happened?’ I started going through the news and … oh my goodness, they won it on that play.”
Williams recited the 2017 lob to Chandler in his postgame explanation of the wild finish.
He said the play was a hybrid between one run by Brett Brown and the 2017 play by Phoenix.
DEANDRE AYTON FOR THE WIN 😱
UNBELIEVABLE GAME WINNER!! pic.twitter.com/tcHwtzUcty
— ESPN (@espn) June 23, 2021
Triano credited Williams for added creativity. Unlike the Chandler lob, which isolated the center and required that he find enough separation to go get the inbound pass from Dragan Bender himself, the 2021 Valley-Oop required Devin Booker to free Ayton with a screen on Clippers center Ivica Zubac.
“That play last night was perfectly designed by Monty,” Triano said. “When I ran the play, we just put Tyson under the rim and said, ‘Go up and get it.’ He did a little bit of a push-off and went up and caught it under the rim. I think people in the NBA now know the rule, so you have to figure out, how are you going to get your 7-footer there?
“You got to give Monty a lot of credit for figuring out, hey, if Devin sets this screen, create a two-man game where there’s lot of space. Devin sets a good screen, they can’t help off him. I’m sure if they helped off him, the next play was Devin coming to the corner for a quick catch-and-shoot if they had taken away the rim.”
That, obviously, wasn’t needed.