Last night, the L.A Lakers rallied from down nine in the first quarter to beat the Indiana Pacers, 99-86. Despite missing three starters in Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers never trailed in the second half and ended up winning relatively comfortably, buoyed by a second quarter performance in which they gave up only 14 points.
However, they would have given away the entire game had the Pacers played a bit better, due to their own inability to hit what is supposed to be the easiest shot in the game.
The Lakers shot only 2-14 from the free-throw line, a 14.3% percentage as a team that tied for the second-worst free throw shooting performance by a team ever. It ties a 1-7 performance by the Toronto Raptors back in 2012 in a game with a hideous-looking box score, and trails only an 0-3 performance back in 1996 by, coincidentally, the Raptors again.
Neither of those two Raptors teams won their games, because of course they didn’t. Indeed, of the 29 worst team free-throw shooting performances of all time, the guilty team won the game only six times. Catches win matches, and making your free throws wins NBA games.
This is an area in which the Lakers have struggled all year. Despite being ninth in the league in free throw attempts, the Lakers are only 22nd in makes and stone cold last in percentage. Only Caldwell-Pope (76.5%) and Jordan Clarkson (75.8%) shoot above 75% from the line, yet the average free throw percentage for the entire league is 76.7%, meaning they do not have a single above-average free throw shooter.
Players such as Larry Nance (61.1%) and Corey Brewer (65.1%) are dragging the average down, while fellow rotation players Ingram (67.6%) and Julius Randle (67.9%) are also shooting under the 70% mark. No one shoots worse than Ball, however, with his lowly 48.0% mark looking just as ugly as his three-point stroke.
On the night, only Clarkson (2-3) made any foul shots at all. Nance, Randle, Brook Lopez and spot starter Tyler Ennis all missed a pair, while Kyle Kuzma went one step further, missing all three of his attempts. It was not pretty.
Nevertheless, it’s not normally this bad. And yet the Lakers won anyway, as the Pacers hot pretty terribly from a key area themselves.
Despite having the seventh-best offence in the league and ranking as high as fourth in the league in three-point shooting percentage, Indiana shot only 2-25 from outside against the Lakers, a lowly 8%. The Pacers also attempted only 13 free throws, and took 97 field goals to score their 86 points, a terribly inefficient night from all over, It, too, was not pretty.
The Pacers are in the playoff hunt in the East and can hopefully chalk this up as an anomalous performance. They normally shoot well, and their surprising offensive versatility has seen then come out of the Paul George far better than they went into it. This is rare for them.
Despite getting away with it this time, however, the Lakers are nowhere this year. Maybe they need to work on those fundamentals more.