Free throw shooting a huge problem for sluggish Heat


December 20, 2016


Shaquille O'Neal is coming back to Miami this week, about to be the third former Heat player to have his number retired and raised to the rafters of the team's arena.

Perhaps he can offer some foul-shooting tips while he's in town.

For as notoriously bad as O'Neal was from the foul line 53 per cent for his career he never played for a team that shot free throws as poorly as the Heat have so far this season. Miami is connecting on 66.2 per cent of its foul shots, by far the worst rate in the NBA, on pace for the worst such season in team history and one of the reasons why the Heat are off to a 9-19 start.

"I would say it's all mental," said Heat guard Goran Dragic, the team's leading scorer at 19.1 points per game and best free-throw shooter at 81 per cent.

"You need to be focused on the free-throw line. Not only in games, but in practice."

The Heat were 14 for 25 from the line in Sunday's 10-point loss to Boston.

This is how bad things are for the Heat at the line: If they were to make their next 562 free throws, that still wouldn't push their shooting percentage past San Antonio for the top spot in the NBA right now.

"We're working at it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We still have chances."

Miami has had eight games in which it's failed to make even 60 per cent of its free throws this season, a league-high - and already one more than the Heat had in all of the 2015-16 season.

Maybe most baffling is this: The Heat are making only 63.9 per cent of their foul shots at home, seven per cent worse than any other team in the league. Miami hasn't been a great shooting team from anywhere - 24th in 2-point shooting, 28th in 3-point shooting this season - but the foul-shot problems are particularly frustrating.

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