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Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Foulapalooza" at Conseco Fieldhouse

The Indiana Pacers made 36 of 45 free throws in a 111-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Conseco Fieldhouse on Wednesday night, ending a five game losing streak. As Marv Albert might say, it was a festival of free throws (hence the title of this post).

When exasperated Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell emerged from the locker room to do his postgame standup, the first thing he said was, "What could you guys possibly ask me?" In other words, the free throw disparity was obviously the story of the game. He stated that, like any coach, he did not agree with all of the calls but that most of them were legitimate. He had no explanation for why his players repeatedly fouled players 30 feet away from the basket, replying to queries on this subject, "I don't know. I'm not committing the fouls. Ask them." Mitchell added, "They shot 40% (from the field). I don't think that we can play better defense than that...We had more field goals (38-33), hung in on the boards (52-46) and our turnovers were just OK (14)" but that there is no way to make up for such a glaring free throw differential.

All-Star Chris Bosh did not play due to a sprained left thumb and after the game the Raptors announced that he is being shut down for the remaining seven games of the season--a wise decision, especially since he is their franchise player and the team is not even close to contending for a playoff spot. Mitchell refused to use Bosh’s absence as an excuse, saying that it had nothing to do with his players fouling so frequently.

Mike James kept the Raptors close in the first half by scoring 18 points on 7-11 shooting from the field. Toronto only trailed 54-50 at the break. In the second half James tried a little too hard to win the game by himself, shooting more (16 attempts) and connecting less (6 makes). He finished with 34 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and eight assists. Peja Stojakovic and Stephen Jackson led the Pacers with 25 points each, while Jermaine O’Neal contributed 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots, several of which were quite spectacular.

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Notes From Courtside:

Hall of Famer Alex English, who scored 2000-plus points in eight straight seasons and was the leading scorer in the decade of the 1980s, is a Raptors assistant coach. English led the NBA in scoring in 1982-83 (28.4 ppg) and had his career high scoring average in 1985-86 (29.8 ppg, finishing in a dead heat with Adrian Dantley behind Dominique Wilkins), but did not place in the top five in MVP voting either season. Before the game I asked him about that and what he thinks of this year's scoring leader, Kobe Bryant, and how he should fare in the MVP race. He replied, "I don't think that it should be determined by how many points you score. I think that it should be determined on what you do for your team--do you make your players better? What kind of record does your team have? I would lean more toward a guy like Chauncey Billups--a guy who runs his squad and does so much for his team. Teams like that have people who make the players around them better and who are not so selfish that they feel like they have to be the focus of attention. Look at the teams that have great scorers. Are they doing well?" I pointed out that, at least in the case of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers would win fewer games if Bryant did not shoot 25-30 times a game. I conceded that shooting so much does not on the surface seem to make one's teammates better, but that it appears to be the best winning strategy that the team has at this point. English responded, "I'm sure that you could apply that to a few guys in the league. I felt that when I played that I made my teammates better. I didn't just shoot the basketball. I only did what was required of me. When my team needed me to score, I scored--but I also rebounded, blocked shots, made steals and passed the ball."

posted by David Friedman @ 12:27 AM

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