Shooting free throws in the clutch is different than knocking them down at the end of the first quarter. Everyone knows that a usually reliable free throw shooter can suddenly psych themselves out and make something they’ve done thousands of times look like something they’re doing for the first. I was recently watching the 30 for 30 on the Orlando Magic. I remember watching Nick Anderson’s infamous trip to the line up 3 in game 1 of the finals. As you may recall he missed both, got the offensive rebound, was fouled, and missed both again.
The 30 for 30 showed me a part of the game I didn’t understand at that time. Coach Brian Hill instructed Anderson to line up out of bounds defensively taking a delay of game so they could see Houston’s set. Penny said this was a common tactic used and one they’d prepare for. Anderson, still reeling from the misses, wasn’t clear enough in his intent and Houston inbounded to Kenny Smith on a cut across the top. Penny was not ready to defend and allowed their best 3 point shooter to catch the ball and then dribble in to a 3. The last few seconds of this game has a ton to teach on special situations and mental toughness. Here are a few I took:
1. Be “next play no matter the last play”. Orlando still had a great chance to win up 3.
2. Penny could have been ready to defend had the delay of game not worked.
3. He could have pressured up on Smith forcing a drive or at least a kick to lesser shooter.
4. The whole #FoulOrDefend thing comes to mind.
5. Even in overtime they were tied on another sideline play. They said, we knew Clyde Drexler would get it, we knew he’d drive to the right, yet Clyde gets it and drives to the right. He causes Shaq to challenge the shot allowing Hakeem the tip in to win. Who was on Clyde? Anderson. Was he still in his head about the missed FT’s? No one knows and it would take an extremely strong player mentally to not go back to that moment during every dead ball of the overtime.
The documentary is great, especially if you remember watching those teams as I do. The rest of the story on Nick Anderson is tough. A great player who the next season was telling others to take technical free throws rather than shoot them himself. He needed grace; mostly from himself.
Here’s a youtube link of the game starting with the 1st missed FT
Here’s a good article following up with Anderson 20 years later. Yes it’s been that long…