Thunder on fire at free-throw line

By John Rohde, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Modified: November 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm •  Published: November 11, 2010

There is no better free-throw shooting team in the NBA than the Thunder right now. Or ever, for that matter.

Heading into today's 8:30 p.m. contest against Portland inside Oklahoma City Arena, the Thunder is shooting 87.3 percent from the free-throw line, which easily leads the league.

That is a monumental 4.1 percent higher than the NBA season record of 83.2 percent by the Boston Celtics in 1989-90.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said it is unrealistic to expect his team to stay at such a lofty percentage, but he does expect a level of excellence to continue.

Brooks has set a standard of at least 80 percent for his team. The Thunder finished second in free-throw shooting last season at 80.5 percent.

“That is the personality of our offense,” Brooks said. “We want to get to the rim, attack the basket and get to the free-throw line. It's a great asset to have.”

Not only is the Thunder's charity stripe prowess an asset, it's a weapon, particularly late in contests when an opponent fouls to stop the clock while playing catch-up.

“Free throws put pressure on everybody, especially when you start to make them,” small forward Kevin Durant said. “Against us, you've got to play a little different, knowing that if you foul us we will go to the line and make them, no matter who's at the line – Russ (Westbrook), Jeff (Green), Thabo (Sefolosha), me, Nenad (Krstic) – we're going to make them. We've got faith in anybody.”

So far, the Thunder is living large at the line, where they are outscoring teams by an average of 11.1 points per game and their opponents are shooting just 72.9 percent.

“Our free-throw defense is pretty good, too,” said a smiling Brooks.

In Durant (.914) and Westbrook (.905), the Thunder not only has two of the league's premier free-throw shooters but also two nightmarish defensive assignments to contain.

“We have some aggressive players who should be able to get the line,” Brooks said. “In order to stop them, you have to foul. It's a very important part of our offense.”



Team free-throw leaders

ALL-TIME

1. Boston (1989-90) .832

2. Dallas (2002-03) .829

3. Boston (1990-91) .824

3. Toronto (2008-09) .824

5. Milwaukee (1988-89) .821

5. K.C.-Omaha (1974-75) .821

2010-11

1. Thunder .873

2. Houston .835

3. Denver .822

4. Charlotte .814

5. LA Lakers .812

Source: Basketball-Reference.com

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