NBA Playoffs: Pre-Finals Free Throw Wrap-Up

Durant Free ThrowImage:

When last we checked in, we were waxing poetic/philosophical in the wake of the whole Donald Sterling racism fiasco. In the couple of weeks or so since, Sterling managed to go on national TV and screw things up even more, and the LA Clippers ended up being sold by Sterling’s wife to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for the low low price of $2 billion, though Sterling is still threatening to sue the NBA for $1 billion. Don’t you just love rich people math? The sale is a historic trade off from one old white guy to a slightly younger but still pretty old white guy, though to Ballmer’s credit, his on-tape gaffes will probably end up just being him shouting “developers Developers DEVELOPERS!” – still irritating, but a lot less racist than Sterling’s. Ballmer also promises to be one of the first team owners to sweat more than his players do on court. Also, he’s perfected his victory dance for whenever someone on his team makes a basket.

But I digress. Here are the top free throw moments from the playoffs. Excluding the finals, obviously. Unless someone has a way for me to see the future. In which case, I would probably give up free throw blogging and go crazy in Vegas.

First. it’s worth remembering (again) the free throws by DeAndre Jordan of the LA Clippers in game 5 against the Warriors, which noted sports writers called a “roller coaster”. Maybe because of the fact that sometimes they make people vomit. But in this case, comparing them to a roller coaster turns out to be a good thing. But as they moved on to face the Thunder, they (to borrow a tired metaphor) dropped the ball. After seemingly forgetting how to shoot free throws, they were out after six games.

While we’re on the subject of Oklahoma City and free throws, watch this video of Joey Crawford moronically interrupting Kevin Durant during a free throw in game 5 of the Thunder/Grizzlies series. The ref looks like Elmer Fudd.

There was more free throw drama to come. In game 6 of the Thunder/Spurs series, OKC managed to tie it up when Kevin Durant drained two free throws against the Spurs with 58 seconds left. It was almost enough to give the Thunder one more game before their inevitable loss against the “Foreign Legion”. But no, they still lost 2-4, instead of a marginally more dignified 3-4 loss.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Division, another moronic free throw interruption happened when Brooklyn’s “Mr. Whammy” (wasn’t he the guy from Anchorman? or maybe the guy from the Six Flags ads.) did what appeared to be a two-fingered breaststroke to distract the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry from making one out of two free throws during their series. Which Brooklyn ended up winning. Whammy.

But the biggest story is – of course – the Miami Heat, against whom two other teams had exceptional free throw games, and still lost. Brooklyn rallied in the last of the five (five!) games they ended up playing against Miami, thanks to free throws, before losing. Indiana did a bit better, taking two games off of Miami before being sent to the scrap heap. The first of those two was basically won by free throws.

So here we are again. The Heat are looking to win their third championship in a row, despite the fact that other teams seem to be doing better at the free throw line. Does this mean that free throws don’t matter?

No. Without free throws, those teams would have gone down even harder. Now, only one question remains: will the Heat emerge victorious, or will the Spurs be able to take them down a peg? I dunno. Maybe we should ask Mr. Whammy.

Speaking of the Clippers, Free Throws Saved Their Asses in Game 5

image: Bleacher Report

While the whole Donald Sterling racism fiasco was boiling over, his team was beginning to unleash their secret weapon on the court: free throws. During game 5 on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors unveiled a new strategy: foul the crap out of DeAndre Jordan, statistically one of the worst free throw shooters on the team. Did it work? The good folks at Grantland (a sports site I’m proudly addicted to) have an almost poetic answer:

At any Clippers game, Jordan at the free throw line is a complicated experience. All Jordan free throws are preceded by stadiumwide cheers to encourage him. It’s like a gigantic millionaire turns into everyone’s little brother, and all they want is to watch him do well.

When he misses after all that, it’s painful to watch.

When he makes them, the whole place goes delirious.

It’s pretty much basketball in its simplest possible form.

And Jordan made his free throws Tuesday. Most of them, anyway. He went 6-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, with all of Staples Center getting a little crazier with every make, and a Clippers win becoming a little more inevitable in the process. It’s a reminder of how stupid and fun sports can be. There’s nothing more basic and mundane than free throws, but Jordan turns them into an emotional roller coaster.

William Shakespeare, who just a couple of days ago turned 450, couldn’t have put it better. Reading that passage is enough to make us at Make Every Free Throw want to launch into our own fit of poetics. So here goes.

In a way, the whole Donald-Sterling-being-an-obnoxious-racist/Clippers-winning-game-5 can be compared to the foul/free throw cycle. An act of wrongdoing is committed, and the wronged party is given an opportunity to, in a certain way, right that wrong. This case is a bit odd: the wrongdoer has committed a morally reprehensible act against essentially everyone (that’s what racism is) but especially his team, who during the middle of a clutch game found themselves with an aging overweight and way-too-tanned albatross around their collective neck. But there’s a chance for redemption. Start winning, and you prove to the world that you’re ready to dump your socially inept neanderthal of an owner and be picked up by someone who has class.

And that’s exactly what the Clippers did.

Free Throws have an element of righteousness to them, righting the wrongs of an imperfect game, and by extension, world. But they also win games. Without all of Jordan’s free throws, it would have been a lot harder to win. They may be “mundane” sometimes, but they’re a key to winning. And they might also help to get rid of racism and save the world. Just sayin.