2014 NBA Finals Preview: Free Throw Edition

nbafinalsmgn1image: deannbabets.wordpress.com. Isn’t it nice that we can reuse all the graphics from last year?

Tonight is the first night of the NBA Finals, with the Miami Heat facing off against the Spurs in San Antonio. There’s plenty to talk about, but since we’re all about free throws here, we’re going to be giving our free throw preview of the finals. Let’s go.

The Miami Heat have been all over the place on free throws. Lebron, for instance, is holding at a solid 75% free throw rate. Solid enough that people seem to not want to foul him so much: during the season, he once went two straight games without shooting a free throw. Dwayne Wade has also been strong from the free throw line this year, despite this video, leading some to question an analysis that (sadly) we bought into saying that free throws helped the Indiana Pacers to pick up a few games during the playoffs. Nevertheless, their performance last year was shaky, as Danny Martinez points out. With many expecting a strong offense, will they be able to hold up against possible fouls?

On a related note, watch this video explaining the probability of Lebron making ten free throws in a row.

San Antonio has also shown a wobbly free throw performance, but one that is improving overall. Tim Duncan used to suck at free throws, but he turned things around and by 2013 was shooting 82% from the free throw line. We noted Kevin Durant’s strong free throw shooting in OKC’s final game of the playoffs this year, but Duncan also held his own, shooting 75% or more regularly.

Overall, even though they have been shaky on free throws in the past, this year these are two strong teams that have proven that they can hold up on the free throw line. It looks like this is going to be a good finals series for free throws.

NBA Playoffs: Pre-Finals Free Throw Wrap-Up

Durant Free ThrowImage: upi.com

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.