Thursday, November 11, 2010
By Chris Forsberg
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonPaul Pierce and the Celtics could benefit from getting to the free-throw line more.
MIAMI -- One thing to keep an eye on during Thursday's game is how many times both teams get to the charity stripe. On opening night, both sides shot 25 freebies apiece, but since then, the two teams have gone on diverging paths.
Boston is attempting a league-worst 20.8 free throws per game, while Miami is second to only Oklahoma City at 31 attempts per game. The Celtics are coming off a loss in Dallas in which they attempted a mere seven free throws and shied away at times late in the game from attacking the rim, where they could have drawn more whistles.
The Celtics' free-throw percentage this season is reason alone it would behoove the team to get there more. Boston is sixth in the league with an 80.7 percent success rate, which is way above its mark in recent seasons. The Celtics finished tied for 21st overall in the league at 74.6 percent last season and tied for 17th the year before at 76.5 percent. During the 2007-08 championship campaign, they were eighth overall at 77.1 percent.
Before playing Oklahoma City Sunday, Rivers acknowledged how important it was to keep that team off the line. They responded by allowing only 17 free throws. They'll have to strive to do the same against Miami, particularly if either Shaquille O'Neal or Jermaine O'Neal is unable to go and the team is thin on depth up front.
But the more important factor might be getting the Celtics back to the stripe with frequency. The Celtics were 10th in the league in free-throw attempts last season at 25.5 per game, and that number climbed to 26.5 attempts (9th best in the league) during the 2007-08 championship campaign.
"It's funny, if i had my druthers, and I could only chose one, I would take attempts over percentage, because attempts mean [opposing] foul trouble, and players are on the bench," said Rivers "We want to get to the line more, the making will come. We've got [Rajon] Rondo, who’s gotta improve; We have Shaq; Marquis [Daniels] is up and down; So, if they keep attacking and getting to the line, I'm good with that.
"We want to keep going [up in attempts.] We talk about it every day: Last year, it was rebounding, turnovers, and not getting to the free-throw line that we didn't do very well."