Daily Archives: December 17, 2009

“The Underappreciated Free Throw”

More and more lately when I watch basketball games, whether it is at the high school level, the college level, or even the  pro level, games are coming down to free throws.  And I know this sounds generic. And maybe it is. Coaches have preached to kids since the pee wees the importance of free throws.  There is a constant reminder of how fundamentals, which includes hitting your free throws, separate a good team from a great team.  But they really are a game changer. 

Free throws are a constant that can alter any game at any level.  Free throws cost Memphis the championship a couple of years back to Kansas.  If they hit their foul shots, Kansas has no shot at winning that title.  Free throws cost UC the Crosstown Shootout the other night as they shot 10 of 22 from the line.  If UC hits from the charity stripe, they are probably 8 and 1 rather than 6 and 3 at this point and ranked in the top 20 in the country.

So last night I got to sit down and watch a pro game.  I watched the Mavericks dismantle a much improved Oklahoma City Thunder team.  The wow factor of the game was the amazing play of Dirk Nowitzki.  Boy can Dirk play.  He has been the model of consistency since entering the League and last night was no different.  Dirk dropped 35 points on 13 of 18 shooting from the floor, not to mention he had 11 boards and was 7 of 8 from the foul line.  Nowitzki has averaged over 20 points a game in 10 of his 11 years in the League.  He is the most skilled 7 footer to ever play in the League in my opinion.  Not to mention he has been a consummate winner in leading the Mavericks to the playoffs in nearly every one of those years.  The Mavericks currently sit atop their division with a 19 and 7 record. 

Want to know what Nowitzki’s career free throw percentage is?  An astonishing 87.2%.  Winners do not mess around from the charity stripe.

Last night, ESPN flashed an amazing stat across the screen during the 4th quarter.  Dirk is 60 of 60 from the free throw line in the 4th quarter this year.  He has also had streaks where he has made 60 straight free throws during his career.  Other players that are clutch in the 4th quarter are guys like Kobe Bryant.  Who going into last night was 26 of 28 from the line in the 4th this season.  Not to mention he hit the game winner in OT last night to give the Lakers an astonishing one point victory over the Bucks.  Want to know how he shot from the line?  Bryant was 12 of 12 from the charity stripe.  Free throws make a difference.  The league’s elite, like Bryant and Nowitzki, they make them from the line.

Last night, was just another night that showed the importance of making your free throws.  Teams that make their free throws give themself a major edge over teams who do not.  I mean just because a team shoots 90% from the line does not mean they will beat every team that they will play against.  But it does give them a much better chance at winning.

The two best teams in the League right now, Boston and LA are shooting over 75% from the line.  Teams that are just behind them like the Cavaliers, are shooting right around 72.5%.  This slight difference could be a small factor in the slim difference in these teams’ records.

Please work on your free throws and do not underestimate its importance.  Do not undervalue the importance of fundamentals son.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

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“NBA Finals Preview?”

I know the season is only a quarter of the way complete, but two teams have really staked their claim as the two best in the League.  The two teams come as no surprise as they were the heavy favorites to represent their respective conferences going into the season and nothing has changed.  If anything, these two preseason picks look to be even more of a sure thing than they did before the season began.

Who would want it any other way?  The Lake Show vs the Celtics.  It is like reliving the glory days of the League with the fierce battles between Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics.  People got a taste a couple of years ago when the Celtics manhandled the Lakers in the Finals in a stunning upset of the heavily favored Lakers.  This year’s matchup would come as less of a surprise than that one did and looks like it would be a thrilling matchup.

Both teams are extremely balanced and well coached.  They play solid on both ends of the floor and do not take nights off.  It will be very interesting to see which one of these two powerhouses claims the best record in the NBA when the season ends.  Maybe one of them could even reach 70 wins at the pace they are going.

Lets first take a look at the Celtics.  All 5 starters on this outstanding squad average over 12 points a game, not to mention Rasheed Wallace averages nearly 10 a game off the bench.  Wallace was an outstanding offseason pick up for this team with his plethora of big game experience and this savviness will show come playoff time.  Paul Pierce has been one of the most underrated players in the League for some time now and is fine with it.  He just wants to get another ring.  P ierce is the consummate scorer.  Ray Allen still has what many see as the prettiest jumper in the League.  Then Kevin Garnett, who the Celts deeply missed at the end of last year is an outstanding defender who can really score.  Lastly, their point guard Rajon Rondo is an outstanding defender who really has developed into a strong point guard.  Originally when Rondo entered the League, I saw him as a mediocre player in this League.  He has really become the engine that makes this team go and slowly but surely his offensive game is improving.  Rondo’s speed could be an X factor in a playoff series against the Lakers.

Then you have the Lake Show.  This is just a stacked team.  Of course they are led by Kobe Bryant who is having another MVP type season as he looks to secure his 5th ring.  Bryant will be slowed over the next couple of months with a broken finger, but this will be good for putting more responsibility on his supporting cast as they prep for the playoff run.  Then of course there is Pau Gasol, who in my eyes is the most skilled big man in the League outside of Dirk Nowitzki.  He has great hands and the full offensive repertoire.  Not to mention he showed glimpses of toughness in last year’s title run.  Then of course there is Andrew Bynum, who as I mentioned in an earlier edition of Sportskraze is putting up all-star type numbers.  He is finally realizing his potential and in my eyes is the reason why I feel this year’s edition of the Lakers is stronger than last years.  The addition of Ron Artest adds more toughness up front to this already very strong Laker starting 5.  Then of course there is Lamar Odom.  Odom can play like an All Star any given night and tends to be an X factor in many tough playoff games.  Finally, there is Derek Fisher.  D-Fish has been through the fire and is one of the most clutch players in the League.  I am not sure if there is another wily veteran that I want putting up a big 3 at the end of a game.

So who holds the edge if these teams were to face?  Well it is very hard to say at this point.  Both teams just look outstanding.  It will be very interesting to see how injuries play out.  If both of these teams stay healthy, I really do not see how they will not meet in the Finals.  Of course there are no guarantees in that there are other tough teams that could knock off either of these great teams.  I think this is the matchup the public would really want to see in all honesty.  It is definitely what TV wants. 

If I were forced to pick a winner though I would take the Lakers in 7.  My simple reasoning for this is the much improved play of Laker center Andrew Bynum.  The Lakers were dominated in the paint when the Celtics embarassed them in the finals a couple of years back.  Bynum could bash with the Celts now and I feel the Lakers ability to neutralize the Celtic bigs would give Kobe a great chance at picking up his 5th title.  Kobe must show that will that he demonstrated down the stretch last year though to capture his 5th title.  This year’s Celtics is tougher than any team that the Lakers played in last year’s playoffs.

But who really knows at this point.  We are only 25 games in.  So what are your thoughts?  Do these two teams meet in the Finals, and if so who wins?

Stay tuned for the next edition of the Sportskraze.

-Kraze