Foul Line: Lakers Thrive when Bricking Free Throws


Can the Lakers keep this up? Their winning of games despite the horrendous shooting from the 15-foot line.

The Lakers made the headlines after their 99-86 win against the Indiana Pacers last January 19 for an unpleasant reason. While they won the game, their 2 of 14 performance from the free throw line that evening reset the lowest free throw shooting percentage in a game recorded by a winning team.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 14.3% the Lakers shot was the lowest in NBA history for a winning team that attempted at least ten free throws.

No winning team shot worse from the line than the Lakers that night. Not even the Hack-a-Shaq team that opponents love to send to the line given O’neal’s inconsistency from converting free throws.

ESPN reported that The Diesel only had just one worse game in his career than this one when he attempted 10 or more free throws than this one, the one where he bungled all of his 11 attempts on December 8, 2000.

Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson was the only one who converted some of his attempts, going 2 of 3. Julius Randle, Tyler Ennis, Larry Nance. Jr. and Brook Lopez all went 0 of 2, and Kyle Kuzma clanged all his 3 attempts.

(Incidentally, Indiana also recorded a futility record that night. The Pacers went 2 of 25 from three point land. That 8 percent is the worst in Pacers’ history. It was also the lowest by a Lakers opponent where a minimum of 20 treys were attempted, according to ESPN.)

Four days later, the Lakers shot 58.3% of their free throws, 21 of 36, against the Boston Celtics but, again managed to win by squeaker 109-108.

They won all games where their five lowest conversion rates in a game for this season happened. They downed the Spurs last January 11 where they shot 8 of 14 free throws (57.1%), the Nuggets on November 19, 2017 where they converted 9 of 16 (56.3%), and the Sixers on December 7, 2017 where they went 12 of 24 (50%) from the line.

The Lakers consistently win their games when they shot poorly from the line in contrast when they don’t.

Of their 47 games as this piece was completed, they shot under 75% in 36 of them. They are 14-24 in them for a 38.89% winning clip.

In the 11 games they shot 75% or better, the Lakers were 4-7 for a 36.36% winning clip.

It becomes weirder when tabulating the extremes.

In the six games the shot under 60% from the line, they were an impressive 5-1. On the other hand, when they shot 80% or better, they could only come up with a 2-5 win-loss record.

The Lakers are dead last in free throw shooting percentage in the league this year. They are converting 68.5% of their attempts. They are the only team shooting under 70%.

Moreover, they are one of the most frequent visitors of the free throw line with 23.1 attempts per game, 11th most this season. Their 15.9 average conversions, however, are ranked just 19th in the league. That is tied with the Knicks who are averaging the same amount of makes while having just 20 attempts a game.

Five Lakers had attempted at least 100 free throws. Brandon Ingram leads them with 214 but only converts 145 of them for a 67.8% shooting clip. Julius Randall follows him with 196 attempts and is converting 68.4% of them.

Clarkson is their best freebie shooter, converting 85 of his 111 tries for a team-best 76.6% success rate. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope trails him with his 75.5% (80/116), followed by Kyle Kuzma, who is shooting 70.7% (94/133)

Brook Lopez (70.6%), Larry Nance Jr. (61%) and rookie Lonzo Ball (48%!) also contribute to this free throw shooting futility.

For now, these Los Angeles Lakers seem to be responding positively when their weakness starts showing up. But can they keep this free throw shooting woes and still come out winning?

They better do something about it if they want to make the playoffs. If untreated, this handicap that will come back to bite them, particularly in close games.