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.