AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
Paul Pierce draws a foul to get to the line.The Boston Celtics rank near the bottom of the league in free throws attempts, averaging a mere 20.1 per game this season (only Golden State and Philadelphia are worse, and the 76ers are on a historic pace for shunning the charity stripe).
So, amid all the positives in Friday's 100-79 shellacking of the Timberwolves, it might have been the fact that Boston got to the line just 11 times that provided one of the only laments in a solid all-around effort. Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows his team is already leaning heavy on Paul Pierce and now even Avery Bradley as two of the only players to get to the stripe (the pair combined for 9 of the 11 attempts on Friday).
"We have been a horrendous team going to the line, for the most part, whereas in the past we’ve been very good at it," admitted Rivers. "[Pierce is] the guy. [Point guard Rajon] Rondo doesn’t get to the line as much as we’d like, so we need someone to go to the line. Kevin [Garnett] is on the perimeter a lot, so he doesn't go to the line. When you look at our team, the way we’re built, Paul is really the only guy that can get to the line.
"Avery might be the second best, actually, because he attacks the basket. We just don’t have that [free throw generator on the] team. [Pierce's increased free throws lately is] really nice because, we’re a better defensive team. Whenever you get to the free throw line -- I think that’s the thing that people miss most -- you get to set your defense, every single time. It’s nice getting to line."
The Celtics can take solace in ranking fifth in the league by converting 77.9 percent of their freebies, making the most of the limited free throws they do take. Here's the sobering facts, though: After Pierce and his team-high 278 free throw attempts this season, no one else is even close. Garnett (149) and Rondo (147) are next in line, while fellow starters Brandon Bass (105) and Ray Allen (101) are barely in triple figures. Bradley, in just a fraction of the time, is next at 50 free throw attempts and climbing. With Chris Wilcox (39) and Jermaine O'Neal (31) out for the season, Boston's remaining bench featuring Greg Stiemsma (28), Keyon Dooling (28), and Mickael Pietrus (27) headlining an eight-man group in which the other five players have combined for a mere 41 freebies.