There were a lot of numbers in yesterday’s box score that probably made you do a double-take if you’re anything like me. In fact, we could do a quick laundry list of them right now to show you how much we have to work with:
—A season-low 72 points for Miami.
—28 points in the second half for Miami
—0 assists for LeBron James for just the second time in his NBA career.
—Miami shot 11-of-41 from outside the paint.
I could go on and on here, but there’s just one number that really stood out to me after the C’s concluded their masterful defensive performance: 17
That being only 17 free throw attempts for Miami during the entire afternoon. To give you some perspective, here’s the Heat free throw tally in their last seven games against Boston (including last year’s postseason).
26, 32, 36, 19, 28, 38, 36
Uncoincidentally, the Celtics went 1-6 in those games, with the one win coming in (you guessed it) Game 3 against the Heat in last year’s postseason where Miami managed to get the line a mere 19 times.
As a whole, Boston has not been a good team this year keeping teams off the charity stripe, coming into yesterday’s game ranked 22nd in the league in opponent’s free throw rate. However, like most areas for this team since the All-Star Break, this is a part of their the C’s have improved dramatically over recent weeks.
When you include yesterday’s win over Miami in fact, over the past 12 games Boston has held opponents to 21 or fewer free throws for seven of their past 12 games. That’s no small feat for a team ranked in the bottom third of the league in allowing opponents to get to the line, as any NBA team goes to the line for an average of 22 free throw attempts each game.
The formula that goes into beating a team like Miami involves a number of things, but keeping them away from making a living at the free throw line is a major component. When LeBron James and Dwayne Wade combine for just seven free throw attempts in any game, you give yourself a chance. And amidst the endless list of things that went right for Boston yesterday, their improved discipline in keeping top-notch opponents like Miami off the line is as encouraging a development out of anything we can take out of yesterday.