The San Antonio Spurs were clinging on for dear life in their game two victory over the Clippers, needing overtime to help stop a furious comeback by Los Angeles.
The Spurs had a 10-point lead at the 6:41 mark in the fourth quarter of game two, but a late rally by the Clippers was able to force the game into overtime.
Although it is chiefly Los Angeles’ late-game execution that forced the extra period, San Antonio’s dwindling lead late-game might have been a result of their own doing.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, for a second straight game, decided to employ the hack-a-shaq strategy on DeAndre Jordan, a notoriously poor free throw shooter, to try to open up San Antonio’s lead.
That strategy, however, ended up back-firing as it led to the Clippers eventually taking a 94-92 lead and the game being sent into overtime.
With two games in the books, it is now time to evaluate whether the Spurs should continue to employ the hack-a-shaq strategy on DeAndre Jordan.
DeAndre Jordan’s Free Throw History
DeAndre Jordan has been poor free throw shooter ever since his college days, and probably even before that.
February 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) scores a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
In his lone season at Texas A&M, Jordan made 52 free throw attempts out of 119 tries. That is good for a 43.7% clip from the charity stripe.
Things did not get better for Jordan in regards to his free throw shooting when he decided to make the move to the NBA. In his rookie season, the 6-foot-11 center shot an abysmal 38.5% from the line.
His whole career, in fact, has been one filled with struggles from the free throw line. Over his career, Jordan has been a 41.7% free throw shooter.
Jordan has even fared worse in the post-season, connecting on under 40% of his free throw attempts in 32 playoff games.
This poor shooting from the charity stripe has lured many teams into fouling the big man in hopes of creating an empty possession for the Clippers. Focus on the word lure, however, because in reality, sending Jordan to the line might actually be doing more harm than help.
The San Antonio Spurs were down 45-39 at the 1:37 mark in the second quarter when they decided to start fouling DeAndre Jordan,
Over the course of that last minute and 37 seconds, Jordan was sent to the line for eight attempts, converting four of them.
Even if Jordan had missed one more free throw, this strategy would have resulted in just a plus-1 advantage for the Spurs.
Although at a 50% conversion rate, that is higher than Jordan’s average, it is not by much. Even if we were to say Jordan only made three of those attempts, things still would not be looking up for the Spurs.
Both teams scored four points apiece in the time between the half and beginning of hack-a-jordan. San Antonio got theirs by way of 2-of-5 shooting (Ginobili missed a three close to quarter’s end for the Spurs fifth attempt), while Los Angeles got theirs by the four free throws DeAndre Jordan made.
As stated earlier, even if Jordan had missed one more free throw, this strategy would have resulted in just a plus-1 advantage for the Spurs.
San Antonio’s shooting was decent at 40% and the team did not commit any turnovers over that final span, meaning that this outlook is probably what is likely to occur when the Spurs decide to employ this strategy.
It’s game two though, where this strategy really comes into question due to the extended amount of time San Antonio decided to use it.
The San Antonio Spurs this time were up 88-80 with 6:22 left in the fourth quarter when they decided to start fouling Jordan.
They would continue to use this strategy until the 2:50 mark in the final period, resulting in 12 free throw attempts for Jordan. He made four of them for a 33.3% clip.
During that three-and-a-half minute span, the Spurs were outscored by eight points, losing all momentum in the process.
With the game slowed down, the Clippers starters were able to rest and keep the foot on the pedal for an extended period of time.
Had Jordan converted those 12 free throws at a rate similar to his career average, Los Angeles would received about one extra point and would have only been down one.
February 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) shoots a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
If you are doing the math, that means this strategy resulted in a minus-9 points for San Antonio, not exactly ideal even if you have the lead.
But let us give the Spurs the benefit of the doubt here and adjust for missed shots. San Antonio went an abysmal 1-of-7 over that span, committing one turnover during that time as well.
The Spurs shot 46.2% for the game, and had all the momentum when they started fouling, so, assuming that momentum had continued, we can give San Antonio an extra six points, three more made field goals.
Even with those additional points, which is a very generous add, the Spurs would still have been outscored by three points had each team’s shooting gone to their percentages.
Overall, San Antonio has been outscored by two points in about five minutes when employing the hack-a-jordan strategy.
That makes for an overall minus-19 points per game when those numbers are converted to per 48 minutes.
If that does not convince you that the Spurs should stop fouling DeAndre Jordan, then consider the qualitative factors such as the reduction of pace and rest that it allows for Clippers players.
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The Spurs nearly lost game two, and it was pretty much a result of this strategy. San Antonio essentially slowed its own momentum and allowed Los Angeles to get to the line for some free points.
Although Jordan did not convert as many free throws as he would have liked, slowing down the game did wonders for the Clippers who had all momentum facing the other way.
We will see what happens in game three, however, if the Spurs do continue to foul Jordan, it could come back to haunt them.