Now we know this isn't March Madness, where if you play one poor game your season is over, but if you play poorly in game one and lose said home court advantage, it can make for a longer road to the eventual goal. The more games played the more wear and tear a team goes through.
Yesterday, the Pacers played a perfect game for 45 minutes. They were making shots, taking charges and pulling down rebounds. They let Derrick Rose get his and defended well in other possessions. Then they stopped making shots. The problem was they weren't getting to the foul line, while Rose, himself, attempted more FTs (21) than the entire Pacer team (17). The legend of Joe Crawford struck again when he branded himself on the game in giving a technical foul to Pacers coach Frank Vogel after blowing an obvious foul call. Of course, when the Pacers did get to the line they didn't do themselves any favors, case in point was Darren Collison missing a different technical free throw given to Deng for pushing Tyler Hansbrough midway through the 4th quarter. The Bulls went on a 15-1 run after that.
In the second game, the 76ers played an absolutely perfect first quarter. They were making shots and Elton Brand was controlling the paint. Yet the heat managed to draw fouls and get back in the game from the line. They shot 11 FTs at the end of the 1st quarter/early 2nd quarter to close a 12 point deficit and control the game from that point on. For the game they out shot the Sixers 39-15.
Portland was hanging around and playing a scrappy game until midway through the fourth quarter when the Mavericks repeatedly got to the stripe. The Blazers would shoot just 13 FTs for the game while the Mavericks would score 18 points in the 4th from the line led by Dirk Nowitzki's 13.
In the only "upset", if you consider a 5 seed beating a 4 seed and upset, the Hawks closed the gap to 1 shooting 29 to the Magic's 30 FTA's. The problem is the Magic are one of the league's worst FT shooting teams and showed it last night shooting just 63%. The Hawks took a page out of the Celtics defensive playbook by letting Howard get his and defend the perimeter. It worked all night as the Magic made just six 3-pointers on the night.
The total number of FTAs from yesterday's 4 games. The home teams had 130 in case you were wondering.
Free throws lead to foul trouble and points, along with runs that get the home crowd energized. They create momentum.
The bottom line for the Knicks is that they have a huge uphill battle to overcome tonight. They must make their shots and utilize their big time players to get to the free throw line. The advantage the Celtics will have will show itself in getting to the line and officials not sending the Knicks there. It's a major factor and one to keep an eye out for as game 1 and the series progresses.