Celtics Missing the Freebies

March 2, 1999 
Not toeing the line 
They're off-target with free throws

   These are the numbers: 70, 54, 60, 58, 58, 64, and 69.

This is not a Tiger Woods/David Duval best-ball scorecard, nor are they Lumpy Rutherford's math test results. They are shooting percentages from the free throw line for the Celtics in the last seven games. They are not good. 

Rick Pitino would not blame errant free throw shooting (13 for 19) for last night's tough 99-97 loss to New Jersey, even though the team missed four biggies in the final two minutes. He's probably right. But he has to be a little concerned that his team is shooting so poorly from the line (66.3 percent, 25th in the league).

"You're going to miss free throws," Pitino said. "We're a young team. That's going to happen. But you always have the right to play defense and make up for it."

For a change, Antoine Walker was not a villain at the line. He attempted only two free throws, and they came with 77 seconds left. He made them both. Still, he's shooting 48.6 percent from the line, which is unacceptable. Paul Pierce was the surprise. He's a 74 percent shooter from the line and made two biggies against Vancouver in the recent triple-overtime game. But he missed two with a chance to give Boston a 3-point lead with 38.9 seconds left.

Pitino said he was more concerned about plays in the middle two quarters and his club's inability to make layups early in the game. It's just that much of that was forgotten at the end while the missed freebies were still fresh in the mind.

McCarty resurfaces

Walter McCarty was activated for the game and got in briefly, playing five minutes in the first half. It was his first action since going seven minutes in the season opener; he has had a toe problem. "I felt good running up and down the floor," he said. "I wasn't expecting to do a lot." Pitino said before the game that he wasn't sure how much he'd use McCarty. But when Pierce picked up a couple of fouls, McCarty was the first off the bench. He took one shot, and missed it badly, a baseliner that hit the side of the backboard. "It slipped out of my hands," he said . . . Nets coach John Calipari said he was glad to be in a place where he had some friends "who care about me." That was evident in the locker room afterward, where there were several Cal people mingling, including former state treasurer Joe Malone . . . By the way, Pitino would like to dismiss the widely held belief that he and Calipari are close friends. "I don't know where that started," said Pitino. "It must be an ethnic thing, that all us Italians stick together." He did say that he was friendly with Calipari, but left it at that . . . Tony Battie easily had the highlight of the night, grabbing a Ron Mercer miss and jamming it home . . . Mercer reported no pain in his left ankle, which he sprained six days ago. He had missed two games, but went 39 minutes.

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