NBA / Jun 12, 2009 / 2:10 pm

Coaches don’t miss free throws

Dwight Howard (photo. Mannion)

Dwight Howard (photo. Mannion)

Everybody has their opinion on how and why the Magic lost Game 4 and, ultimately, their shot at a championship. Take FOXSports’ Edgy And Controversial token Jason Whitlock, who echoes the most common reaction by putting the blame on Stan Van Gundy:

Van Gundy is responsible for one of the greatest choke jobs in NBA playoff history. If he had any pride, he’d resign today and let Patrick Ewing coach Game 5 on Sunday.

We all owe Shaq O’Neal an apology. Van Panic crashed Game 4, hand-delivering the Lakers a backbreaking overtime victory and a 3-1 series advantage.

No doubt, if Howard knocks down one of two free throws with 11 seconds to play, the Magic win the game. I’m sorry. I can live with Howard’s misses. He’s a 59 percent free throw shooter. There’s no reason to expect him to make free throws at crunch time.

This game turned on one decision.

Jameer Nelson had no business on the court. None.

I agree that Rafer Alston, especially coming off his stellar Game 3, should have played more (he clocked 27 minutes, while Jameer had 25), but at the same time, I can’t just let Dwight slide for those free throws. That’s where Edgy And Controversial Jason Whitlock is wrong: There is ABSOLUTELY a reason to expect Dwight to make two free throws — or just one — in a clutch situation.

NBA big men are traditionally below-average free throw shooters, and while you can chalk that up to hand size, range of motion in the shoulders or whatever, I think it’s really just because nobody expects them to be that good. From the time they’re in high school, they don’t practice free throws as much as a guard would practice. If you’re getting tough buckets in the paint, winning your team extra possessions by battling for rebounds, and blocking a couple shots on top of that, it may seem like a lot to ask to also turn into Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf from 15 feet away. But because every big man can point to Wilt Chamberlain and say, “He only shot 51 percent from the line,” it’s acceptable to perform at a lower standard than other players.

And here’s the problem, particularly for somebody like Dwight: He takes A LOT of free throws. Because of his size and skill, teams have to foul him close to the basket. Throughout this series it’s been clear the Lakers made it their game plan to not let Dwight get those soul-crushing dunks on them, especially in Orlando, where he can whip the crowd into a frenzy. Kobe and everyone else in purple would rather bear-hug Dwight and tackle him before letting him get a dunk. And a lot of teams would do the same. During the regular season, Dwight led the League with 10.8 free throws per game (59% FT). In the playoffs, he’s been taking 10.2 free throws per, second behind LeBron James (14.2 FT per game). And, true, up until last night, he’s been pretty good in the Finals from the stripe.

But Howard, and every coach that he’s ever played for and will ever play for, knows damn well he’s gonna be put on the line often. He’s going to have to hit some free throws in crunch time. So why should he be held to a lower level of expectation than the Nick Andersons, Darius Washingtons and Derrick Roses of the game? If any perimeter player bricked those FT’s in Game 4 — and Lord help us all if it were LeBron or Kobe — nobody could “live with” those misses.

I’m not saying Dwight lost the series for Orlando. Obviously they wouldn’t even be in the Finals and wouldn’t have been in position to win Game 4 without his contributions. Bottom line, though, his free throws cost the team. And he knows that. And I doubt Dwight is giving himself a free pass.

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  • PWEEZY

    Nick Anderson Curse what else can you say

    I rather have this fool shoot free throws then TURK or HOward…Does Dime play office basketball at work????

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FChI443vl6Q

  • http://edthesportsfan.com SoulOnIce

    Thank you; I refuse to blame Stan The Man for what happened, in regards to the Magic blowing the game at the foul-line. We should all be able to agree there is no excuse to miss free-throws at the end of the game, while you’re ahead, AND at home; not one. It’s totally unacceptable. We had our own take on Dwight Howard as well today:

    http://www.edthesportsfan.com/2009/06/nick-anderson-debacle-part-deux.html

  • hooper5013

    Yo I hate Jason Whitlock! He is a cocksucker. His opinions are invalid! The Lakers are a better team, and he coached the shit of Orlando by getting them to the finals having them in position to win every game (sans game 1). Turk was missin, Dwight missed a ton. The team lost that game themselves. Van Gundy should have had skip in the game though, that is on him.

  • Ian

    jason whitlock i have no idea who he is but he is the dumbest shit ever. all howard had to do was hit one of the 10 misses he had from the line its all his fault van gundy coulda hit one and win it for the magic. this shit is sad it coulda easily had been 3-1 orlando right now. howard is overrated best center my ass if yao took those shots it would be orlando winnning by ten in regulation. dude cant score outside 3 feet and on defense all he does is block the ball out of bounds all the time.

  • Ian

    shit if howard hits his 58% the magic win that game

  • Rafa23

    nelson shouldn’t have been on the court, but it wasn’t him.
    oh, and we all owe shaq an apaology? for what? because he insulted another coach and damaged his reputation(after SVGs comment on flopping which wasn’t bad at all) and some people were on him for that? even if he may be right, its classless and nobody owes him an apology for anthing.

  • QQ

    Wow… tha Whitlock is one fucking asshole.

    Van Panic? Really? We wouldn’t even be in the Finals withour ‘Van Panic’. And didn’t we all left that lame ass name calling in fifth grade? Why does this dick still bringing it?

    PS: This is the real.

    BURN THE IMPOSTOR!!!

    BURN THE IMPOSTOR!!!

    BURN THE IMPOSTOR!!!

    BURN THE IMPOSTOR!!!

    BURN THE IMPOSTOR!!!

  • Baby Huey

    I think you have to put a lot of the blame on Hedo. He is a good free throw shooter normally, but he choked in the 4th quarter last night. Any one of those misses becomes a make and that game is in Orlando’s pocket. SVG can’t hit the free throws for his players

  • Notorious

    “He’s a 59 percent free throw shooter. There’s no reason to expect him to make free throws at crunch time.”

    Um, Mr Whitlock 59% is higher than half, so we should expect Howard to make 1 of 2, maybe not 2 of 2.

    I do agree that Alston should have gotten some PT in the 4th, he was one of the heroes in Game 3 and you sit him the entire 4th Q and OT?

    What happened to their $100 million dollar man? Lewis shot like 2 of 10 and no free throws? Take that ish to the hole and draw some contact, do something.

    There is a lot of blame to go around, bad game planning, missed free throws, bad defense, questionable substitutions and some poor shot selection. I have a hard time putting it all on any one person, coach and/or player. The MAGIC sh*t the bed, as a team.

  • Rafa23

    and why does this idiot almost expect howard to miss BOTH?
    he made both in crunch time against the cavs. this 59% BS is nonsense, he can hit them, and should be expected to make at least 1. and if he cant hit them, he has to sit on the bench, which would be the next problem.
    shit, i could’ve hit 1 left handed. ima shooter, but still…lol

  • http://nune wizard

    I dont usually post here but after watching game 4 last night, i felt the need to vent on the playoffs especially the finals. First my biggest pet peeve with dwight howard, not his free throws, nor his whack footwork, or the ugly lookin hook shot that the fat guy with the glasses in the Y will try to pull on you, but its the constant bringing the ball down when he gets it downlow..man..my first every coach who had me playing center told me this in grade 7 as a big man dont bring the ball under your chest. Simple, right, i then succeeded to be a very dominant player downlow for some1 thats only 6’5″, thats just plain wrong to have one of the future best centers being tutored and coached by patrick chewing. Howard should watch Shaq tape over the summer, and watch his footwork, and see how he used his body to get to the rim to dunk with people on him, moving with strengths that doesn’t allow the defenders to grab and hold you but to step away!!and second stan ron jermey missed up by pressing, i think they should’ve not allowed them to roll the ball over, and just pressure the ball, not a full court press with 11 secs left, c’mon a press gets broken and scored on in 4 seconds. thats my two cents..hopefully thats the next smack post ;)

  • QQ

    I see it this way:

    SVG messed up by playing Meer in the clutch, but Dwight, Meer and Shard also did a couple of miscues here and there.

    PS: Van Panic? Really? REALLY? *loses a million or so brain cells*

  • abpin

    Nelson shouldn’t have been on the court at the end of the game. Giving Derek Fisher that much space to shoot the 3? You’re UP by 3, guard him up & force him to drive, pass, or take a tough shot. Don’t give him breathing room! Also, his half-flop after that elbow my Kobe was pathetic. You’re going to fall on the ground when your championship hopes are on the line? Looking at the replays, it’s not like Kobe swung his elbows full force. There’s no way a grown man like Jameer Nelson can fall like that from an elbow tap.

    Maybe Skip would have done the same thing. Maybe not. We’ll never know.

    Was it me? Or in the final minutes of the game, did Orlando look like they didn’t want that win that bad? On the inbounds play before overtime, shouldn’t you have used your final timeout instead of having Pietrus hoist up a bad fadeway long distance two? On an inbounds play in overtime, it seemed like there should have been a 5-second violation called when Turkoglu FINALLY comes up to the ball for the inbound pass.

    I guess I’m still mad about that game. I respect Kobe and want him to win one post-Shaq. But I’m rooting for the Magic. Ultimately though, I just want to see some GOOD, SMART, HARD FOUGHT basketball… and the Orlando Magic didn’t pull through at the end of the game.

  • Big V

    I’m still not sure about the Nelson situation though. I can’t help but think that Skip wouldn’t have allowed Fisher to get that three off at the end of regulation uncontested.

    That was definitely a bonehead move on Jameer’s part, but I wonder if it was equally boneheaded for Van Gundy to leave him in the game at that point.

  • Big V

    Incidentally, 59% FT means that he’s supposed to hit at least 1.

  • Otto

    I read the Fox article this morning. Any reporting propagated by Fox is sure to raise an eyebrow of suspicion. These guys excel at sensationalizing any newsworthy event.
    Very clear headed write-up Austin. It’s funny because you can always tell which reporters/bloggers actually played organized ball in their days from the ones that claim they’re privileged to a basketball opinion because they have a yearly league pass subscription.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    In the whole scheme of things honestly having Jameer in any of the games has not really helped Orlando at all to where you can point to any one game and look at Jameer’s stat line or any super big play that put Orlando over any hump.

    Honestly going off the reg. season games, I know Orlando and others had to think they needed Nelson. Still Skip was their playoff man and that is who they should have stuck with period. Jameer should have just been moral support on the bench and nothing more or nothing less.

    Plus Anthony “Uncle” Johnson ain’t even seen the floor and he was doing a good job. Him and Skip were a decent 1,2 punch.

    Now is all this Stan’s fault, no! By no means. Call this Dwight’s Baptism into knowing there is yet some other levels he has to get to.

    Honestly it’s a Baptism for many of them (Orlando) in showing them everything no matter how free they may seem counts in a big way until you are holding the trophy in your hands.

    So sure perhaps Stan will get much of it, but he doesn’t deserve all of it. Dwight has develop more still and make free throws in the crunch. Hedo has to stop with silly fouls and make easy shots as well as the crazy ones he hits. Raw-Lew has to establish himself in all areas and be more consistent in scoring, so his teammates know no matter what 9 out of 10 they will get that 20 or 25 points from him.

    Oh yea and even the Lakers should be thankful that they did not faced a more experience and fit team like a healthy San An or Boston cause honestly, they haven’t dominated as much as they should with the experience and pieces they have. I have to think had they been facing a healthy Boston or a younger San An the Lakers might be in trouble, cause Bynum hasn’t been the answer many thought he would be.

    Still those are if. Right now the Lakers are doing what they got to do and I salute them and their fans. Congrats on the job so far.

  • SWAT

    whitlock is always very opinionated…his articles are always entertaining but he is dead wrong on this one. van gundy didnt lose it…the players did. how many times did you see him tellin turk to call a time out if he couldnt get a good inbounds pass, or jameer not fouling kobe or fish before the shot attempt. jeff said it best…sometimes the players IQ goes out the window and they get caught up in the moment. nonetheless i still believe in magic!

  • me

    the game wasn’t over with the free throws. it’s all the other crap that lost them the game. no d on fish, no heart in OT.

  • karizmatic

    In the clutch everyone is expected to make them right down to Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman.

  • E$

    coaches take you out when your not shooting well

  • Bizz

    Jameer gave up 3 points. Dwight missed like 8 from the line. Over the course of the game…EVERY point matters. A 3-pointer at the end of the game by Fisher is STILL 3 POINTS, not 4, not 7, not 108. The fact that when there is no pressure in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd quarter, and you’re missing your free throws early or late in the game is still a choke job, no matter how much time is on the clock, and that has nothing to do with Stan Van Gundy.

    When Kobe choked in game 3 from the line, all we heard was “Oh he’s probably tired from carrying the Lakers all year”… NO. HE CHOKED. 5-10 from the line, Magic win by 4.

  • LakeShow84

    @ E$

    Yeah thats why we benched Fisher when he wasnt shooting good right?? i think u just eliminated yourself from the coaching circuit..

    i luv your one liners..

  • Dukesman2000

    Jameer Nelson is the dumbest basketball, ever! He was assumed done for the season, he should have never suited up.

  • George W Kush Sr

    Whitlock is an idiot, because the one thing he should have argued is Nelson’s defensive presence after the missed free throws since someone bigger should have been guarding Fisher.

    True, Dwight should have hit at least one free throw, Van Gundy also should have switched up some players.

    And what’s up with the Elbow Kobe threw up Nelson’s jaw? No call for that, but when Dwight steps into the key its automatic Offensive foul, wtf

  • Sweet English

    ”Jameer Nelson is the dumbest basketball, ever! He was assumed done for the season, he should have never suited up.”

    i think you will find YOU are the dumbest basketball…

  • doc

    The whole team from coach to 12th man choked.

  • LakeShow84

    LMAO @ 26

    I was going to say something but it was too easy..

  • yoda

    hand size and overall size excuse is bs. how come dirk or pau, both 7 footers can shoot well from free throw line, while others can’t? practice makes it perfect people. for example, one (or two) years in a row shaq had personal ft coach, and he got his freebies up to 60%+. maybe more, which was for him like 80% for regular person. now, if shaq had kobe’s working habits he would have ft’s at at least 75%.

  • bookkwormmaster

    I stated my opinion about the Magic’s Game 4 in another article here on Dime but there is one other thing that I wanted to point out/ask? Why hasn’t Rashard Lewis gotten more blame/criticism for the way he has played in these Finals, in particular Game 4. I’ve read about Howard’s missed free-throws and lack of post moves, Alston’s shot-jacking and wild erratic passes, Turkoglu’s ill-advised “bad shots”, Courtney Lee’s “choke job” and biting on Kobe’s fakes, and SVG’s panics and weird substitution patterns but nothing is rarely if ever said about Lewis and his play or lack thereof. I don’t know the stats but I do know that he scored like just 6 points on like 2-10 FG or something like that. If you watch the Magic play Lewis plays TOO MUCH like a standstill catch-and-shoot player for the amount of money that the Magic are paying him. He doesn’t drive very much and when he does he seems to get caught up as to whether he should keep driving or pull-up and that indecision has seen him take some bad, awkward looking shots. He plays way too much like a third fiddle and is/has been EASILY taken out of games because he lacks the aggressiveness to find another way to help his team other than waiting for the ball to come his way so he can shoot a three. I think he needs to grow a set and get in there and help Howard on the boards, give Lee and Pietrus a break on guarding Kobe, or take the ball out of Turkoglu’s hands and run the offense and let him play off the ball. PROVIDE SOMETHING to your team other than just your scoring. YOUR TEAM ON THE BRINK OF ELIMINATION AND THEY NEED MORE FROM YOU

  • QQ

    And it’s funny how this bitch burn Van Gundy. The league is full of passive as dry shit coaches who sits there in the sidelines as their players do all the job, and yet, no one seems to notice that. Hello, ‘ Fucking Coach of the Year’ Mike Brown and Vinny del Negro.

    SVG has always been different. He has fire, he imprints his personality in the team and he COACHES. You see him screaming for defensive assignments, you see him point out mistakes to his players after a bad play, you see him jump on the sidelines after a missed layup. And I think that personality irks the critics. Coaches should not have this kind of fire. Coaches should only sit down, shut their mouths, and watch the game. If you’re not like that, you’re a MASTER OF PANIC!!!!!!

    Damn it. Stan deserves some of the blame, but to be hated like this, like he didn’t do shit for us to reach the Finals, like he isn’t the coach of the Eastern Conference Champions, THAT’S BULLSHIT.

  • ponky_alolor

    its the players who lost that game. too many turnovers, botched D, missed FTs. only thing SVG could take heat 4 is using jameer to D up fish with a 3pt lead.

  • flegman

    not the NBA big men are bad at the ft line. USA big men are bad. They are only trained to set screens, get rebounds, etc. and if there’s enough talent, DUNK IT. In school and college American big guys don’t get proper coaching and don’t do proper practice of bball fundamentals. Like… um… shooting.

    Yao can shoot. Dirk can shoot. Hedo can shoot. Sabonis did shoot well.

    read this:
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/ian_thomsen/06/05/countdown/index.html