The Los Angeles Lakers are playing the best basketball they’ve played since the 2012-13 season. There’s no denying that. However, one area they’ve failed to improve in this season is their free throw shooting.
Through 36 games this season, the Lakers are shooting a league-worst 69.4 percent from the charity stripe, despite attempting 23.3 free throws per game (which is the 15th-most in the NBA). That’s even worse than last season, in which they converted an already league-low 71.4 percent of their free throw attempts.
Their ongoing struggles from the free-throw line were arguably the most noticeable they have been all season on Friday, when the Lakers hosted the Clippers.
The Lakers made just 68.6 percent of their free throws while the Clippers made 94.1 percent of theirs. It’s really hard to win games with a free throw differential that large, one of several little things the Lakers lamented after the game.
Last week at practice, Lakers head coach Luke Walton tried to make sense of why his team is having such a hard time at the charity stripe, and he came to the conclusion that their lack of confidence has been infectious (via Lakers.com):
“To me when you do struggle as a team and because of that guys start thinking about it, then the fans, they overreact on a missed free throw... The whole building sighs on a missed free-throw, so then all of a sudden, the psyche part kicks in even more. We have guys that are very capable of making free throws. We work on free throws, they make them in practice, now it’s just knocking them down in the games.”
Their free-throw woes might not keep the Lakers out of the postseason, seeing as three of the bottom-five three throw shooting teams are projected playoff teams, but it could keep them from being legitimate championship contenders.
Over the last decade, only one team has made the NBA Finals while being the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA, and it was the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic in 2009. We all know how that series ended:
Some fans have floated around the idea of the Lakers bringing in a shooting coach and while that certainly wouldn’t hurt, it sounds like their problems go beyond that. The one thing they can’t do, though, is nothing.
Their free throw shooting is a real issue that needs to be solved sooner rather than later if they want to avoid losses like Friday. Hopefully the team finds a resolution in the near future.