Lightning might not strike twice in the same place, but it certainly felt like deja vu all over again for the Lakers on Tuesday night. Standing at the line for huge late-game free throws was Anthony Davis, one of the team’s most reliable free throw shooters over the course of the season.
But in a mirror of the end of the game against Philadelphia, Davis faltered at the line, this time missing a pair of freebies that would have put the Lakers up four points and could have iced the game. The Celtics promptly forced overtime and won the game in the extra sessions to add insult to injury.
Following the game, AD was as distraught and upset at missing those free throws as anyone else. Asked about his teammate’s postgame demeanor, LeBron James stepped up and defended AD.
“It just means he loves the game,” LeBron said. “If it was the other way around and he was smiling, you’d be questioning what type of teammate you’ve got. You would. If you go up and miss two free throws in a big game like that and then come to the locker room and the guy’s laughing and joking, you’d be questioning what type of teammate you’ve got. I know who I’m rocking with every single night. I’m absolutely ok with the way he’s feeling.
“If there’s one guy at this ball club that I love going to the free throw line in the clutch, it’s AD. He’s been on the other side a lot more times in our four years together of closing games at the free throw line than on (this) side. I’m not worried about it one bit.”
As frustrating as the recent faux pas at the foul line have been at the line for Davis, LeBron is right in saying it’s the exception, not the rule. From the start of the 2019 season — LeBron and AD’s first together — through last year, Davis has been a 77.3% free throw shooter in clutch situations, as defined by the NBA as a game being within five points with five minutes left.
On sheer volume, few had attempted more than AD in that span, too. In 2019-20, he took 44 free throws in those instances, hitting 34 of them for, ironically, a 77.3% conversion rate. Injuries limited him to just seven attempts in 2020-21, but last season, even with injuries, he went 17-24 at the line in clutch moments.
This season, he’s sitting at 6-11, but three of those misses have particularly stung and come in the last week. Based on the last three seasons, you’d still back him at the line late in games, but that doesn’t take the pain and frustration away from the last week of coming up short in big moments there.