A typical scenario is that the Lakers are leading the Knicks by 9 points with two minutes to go. At this point, the strategy for the Knicks is to foul the worst free-throw shooter on the Lakers as soon as he touches the ball. The idea is that if he misses his shots, the Knicks will gain possession with a chance to narrow their deficit. This goes on and on until the game mercifully ends 20 or 30 minutes later.
The reason the end of the game takes so long is that the clock stops when the foul occurs and the free-throws are taken. And each team has about 10 time-outs which are called at every whistle. To me, there are basically two phases of a basketball game. Phase I consists of about 38 minutes of what passes for basketball today. That is, a lot of one-on-one offense and minimal-to-no defense. There is no such thing as “traveling’ or “palming the ball” any more. Phase II is the last two minutes which involves a lot more walking back and forth than a soldier on guard duty can imagine.
Try as I might to come up with something, I just don’t think there is any other sport that rewards rule-breaking. Baseball? No. Football? No [but certainly right up there with basketball as far as the duration of the last two minutes of a game is concerned]. Hockey? No, in fact a foul gets you a chance to play with fewer men. Soccer? No. Tennis? No. Golf? No. Swimming? No. NASCAR? No [not a sport].
Why don’t they just skip the basketball game altogether and have dunking contests instead? Then it could be more like gymnastics, figure skating or diving.