Through 13 games of the 2018-19 NBA season, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are the second-worst free throw shooting team in the league at 69.5 percent. As 10 out of their 13 games have been decided in the last five minutes, the Lakers have struggled in clutch situations, especially James.
After calling himself ‘garbage’ for missing two free throws in the final minute against the Atlanta Hawks, James believes it is a matter of repetition for him and his teammates.
“Just continue to work on it,” James said at Wednesday’s shootaround prior to facing the Portland Trail Blazers. “I think all of us, we continue to work on it every day.
“I think it will continue to improve with more and more times we get up to the free throw line. It’s just about going up there and knocking them down. That’s from myself all the way to everyone else.”
Along with agreeing with James, head coach Luke Walton expressed confidence in his team improving as the 2018-19 NBA season progresses. “Practice, like anything else. Practice and going up there calm and confident and knocking them down. That’s it,” Walton said.
“I have confidence our guys will make more free throws as the season goes on. We’re professionals and our guys care about getting better and care about winning. We recognize how important making free throw shots is to winning.”
While it will take time, Walton named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma as players in the rotation who he considers good free throw shooters at present time.
“The more Brandon gets there, he’ll continue to make more. LeBron will make more. It’s something that’s going to come,” Walton added.
In the 107-106 win against the Hawks, it was Kuzma who accepted the challenge and made a technical foul free throw late in the game. While Kuzma is only shooting 75.8 percent from the free throw line, he is extremely confident in himself and that is a major factor in these types of situations.
Since the Lakers have seemingly found their identity on defense with Tyson Chandler’s arrival, the next step is learning how to close out games properly.