How many times did we hear it in prior years… “Paul Pierce can’t hit clutch free throws”? It was one of the big knocks on Pierce’s game. It was hard to argue. His free throw average was in the high 70’s… but it dropped a few points late in the game over the past few years.
But you don’t hear that anymore, do you?
Paul Pierce has changed a lot about his game this year. He’s been unselfish (his scoring is 3 points below his career average, but his shooting% and assists are higher). He’s clearly playing better defense. But his biggest change… and one that no one’s talked about… is his free throw shooting.
Paul is a career 79.5% free throw shooter. This year: 84.6% And there’s a simple reason why.
Watch his feet.
In years past, Paul went to the line… put his left foot slightly back from the line… bent a little at the knees… and shot. This year, he’s got that left foot way back. He’s also crouching a bit more. But why?
The past few years, Paul had gotten into a bad habit of shooting his free throw and fading away from the line. By the time the ball hit the rim, he was practically at the top of the key. That’s a sign of bad balance… and its enough to make the shot bounce out, rather than bounce in.
By putting that left foot back and bending more, he changes his center of gravity and maintains his balance throughout the shot… preventing himself from fading away. Just look a the second set of photos. In the 2006 photo, when he brings the ball up to shoot… his weight is over his heels… almost forced him to fade backwards when he shot. Now… his weight is forward… over his knee.
Now, a shot that grazes the front of the rim and goes in… where it used to hit the front of the rim, bounce up, and sometimes out.
Its that simple. Shifting that left foot back and bending the knees… is good for an extra 5% of Paul Pierce’s free throws going in.
Herald: C’s in a different league | Doc: the future is now | Globe: Celts happy to frolic in field of dreams | Riley, Rivers have different views on tourney | Souza: C’s take care of business | Camerato: Another record for C’s | Palm Beach Post: Riley should scout NBA | T&G: C’s don’t break a sweat | Patriot Ledger: Big Chill