It’s called the “charity stripe” for a reason. It is an opportunity to score freely in a game; no arms flailing about to hinder your vision, no opponents chasing you down, little disturbance on the court while other players wait until your release before they make any movements, etc. Free throws are basically complimentary points.
The only catch is… you have to make them.
Not every player in the league is savvy at the free throw line. Many, like Shaquille O’Neal who is shooting just under 50%, certainly are not. In 53 games, he has missed 124 free throws — 124 points! Some players do have the touch from the line. Steve Nash is the best free throw shooter in the NBA at 94%. In 62 games, he has only missed 11!
In light of another loss, the Lakers should take some time to think long and hard about how they let this game against Miami get away from them. A close-fought battle, this game could have gone in either team’s favor. The Heat led by nine points in the second half, which the Lakers retaliated with a late run. More timely shots from clutch-ready Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher gave the Lakers an opportunity to take this game at the end of regulation.
Unfortunately, by the time the clock expired and overtime approached, the damage to this game had already been done. It would end with a 3-point loss in the American Airlines Arena… again.
Missed free throws: 10.
In the Lakers’ 16 losses, better free throw shooting in six close games could have either gotten the win, or at least provide an opportunity to attain the victory…
- vs. Houston (101-91): 20/27
- at Utah (94-102): 17/24
- at Cleveland (87-93): 15/24
- at Memphis (93-95): 17/27
- vs. Boston (87-86): 16/25
- at Miami (111-114): 15/25
In the early losses to Houston and Utah, the Lakers could have cut the lead to three and one respectively if they had made their free throws. A 1-3 point deficit in the last few seconds of either game could have provided a perfect opportunity to win. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Perhaps this is delving too much into such a small aspect of the game. Obviously, there are other factors that lead to wins and losses — turnovers, rebounds, better decision-making, etc. However, when a team is sitting as far up in the standings as the Lakers are, fighting for placement and homecourt advantage in the post-season, seemingly trivial items such as missed free throws, especially in close games, is significant.
Maybe we should be concerned with bigger things, like better defensive efforts, ball movement, a player’s shooting touch.
It is difficult not to feel robbed, however, when a thought occurs that if not for the dismal free throw shooting in six close games, this 46-16 record could be 52-10 right now.