Important Observations: Why High-Five Between Free Throws?

This is a bit of a step into the unknown for me, but my Pacer fandom is finally meaningful in the second round of the playoffs, and I don’t know what to do with myself. The season has been over for two weeks and I’m not scavenging the internet for mock drafts that may give me hope for my team’s draft picks; hell, I don’t even know what day the lottery is being held. It’s morning in Indiana and round two tastes like sweet, sweet opponent-of-a-team-that-gets-coverage relevancy.

It looks so simple, why would you move and mess it up?

Hopefully it’s understood that I’m getting pretty heavily wrapped up in the Pacers-Heat series. This is the ultimate spot for an Indiana team typically on vacation in May to make a point to whoever is watching and reward the loyal fans with some excitement. I honestly can’t remember watching an NBA series with this much enthusiasm since Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan were on the court and everyone in America was wearing Umbros.

Last night’s Pacers-Heat Game 2 was an emotional one and the ending was as brutal as it gets. It was a pretty agonizing game to watch for the first 46 minutes, when the only thing more prevalent than defense was exhaustion, but the final seconds took an extra year or two off the life of a fan of either team. The lead was never more than one possession and both teams missed as many huge shots as they took.

In the final 80 seconds of this game, the Pacers and Heat combined to go 2 for 8 from the free throw line. Two for 8! All any fan could do was watch and swear as both teams won then lost then won then almost lost again at the line.

There’s a lot to be said for the Ryan Spencer Rule and what missing free throws at the end of the game means for overall chances of winning a contest, but I’ve always had one particular pet peeve about free throws: why do players step off the line and high-five teammates in between shots? That just takes you out of your rhythm and forces you to unnecessarily reset for the second shot.

This isn’t something specific to the Pacers-Heat series, it’s something that happens at every level and in every game. But it doesn’t make sense. It seems to me that a player’s chances of making the second free throw would increase significantly if that player used information from the first shot to adjust the second.

Think of it this way: The first shot can have two results, a make or a miss. If the free throw is converted, wouldn’t the shooter be better off to keep his feet where they are and his hands in front of him to visualize shooting the second throw identical to the first? And if it’s a miss, wouldn’t that player still be better off staying in the same position and making a minor adjustment based on the way he missed? It seems to me like the first free throws should dictate exactly how you shoot the second. If you can raise your percentage on the second shot by even 5%, that still matters in a game like last night’s where a single point is the difference between a win and a loss.

This always made a ton of sense to me. Of course, the furthest my basketball skills got me was a seventh-man role on an eighth grade team that didn’t make cuts. But I’ll be damned if I was one of the best free throw shooters that little religious junior high had ever seen.

Think about it. Why reset and throw away the advantage of the information from your first shot? It doesn’t make sense to me that NBA (and college) players don’t average 85% from the line on second free throws.

Is there something I’m missing here? Can someone with more basketball expertise tell me why it’s necessary to step off the line in between shots rather than keeping your feet planted? If you know, write it in the comments.

email