It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book……
Calling a timeout just before a shooter steps up for a free throw in an attempt to “ICE” them.
Make them sweat a little, let their heart rate rise ever so slightly, the joints stiffen up just a tad and their focus drops a few percent……you get the point. It’s about getting into the shooters head and stopping any rhythm before they step up to shoot.
Happen to catch any of the Spurs v Warriors game the other day? Steve Kerr was at his icing best and took it to a whole new level. The Warriors were calling timeouts between the 1st and 2nd free throw, backing that up by calling subs between free throws, anything to break the shooters rhythm.
There must be method to the madness, my last post looked at why teams should avoid timeouts after being scored on, now we look at how timeouts can “ICE” the opposition and bring down free throw shooting percentages......A LOT.
Below are the league averages for 1st and 2nd free throw attempts, on average an NBA player shoots the 2nd free throw attempt 4.3% more accurately than the 1st. This makes sense as a player locks in a little more mentally after the 1st attempt, making minor adjustments and having a small rhythm.
So can players be “iced”? What happens when teams call a timeout before the first free throw?......disappointingly not much, a 2% decline. Hang in here with me though.....
Below, although the Warriors do call timeouts before the first free throw they are middle of the road in using it as a tactic and it’s clearly not a huge strategy for them. The numbers suggest on average it’s not having much effect but that isn't stopping Sacramento and the Lakers leading the way. Hopefully they have done their numbers!
When we dig into the effects on specific players it starts to get more interesting and you can see LaMarcus Aldridge and Danillo Gallinari are FROZEN when they come back out to shoot. We have some serious candidates here for icing! (Based on at least 5 attempts)
Now to the real eye opening stuff, calling a timeout between the 1st and 2nd free throw. On average (and I know the sample size isn’t huge)….BUT….teams are shooting an anemic 67.4% on the 2nd attempt which is a 10.3% DECLINE coming out of a timeout! That is ICE COLD.
The Warriors, Pacers and Spurs are leading the way with this strategy with no other team really taking a look at it. No wonder Kerr is utilizing the tactic, teams are shooting 50% from the line against the Warriors….50%!
Interestingly, Kerr has used this tactic 40% of the time in 4th quarters when the game was close compared with the Pacers who are using it 75% of the time with under a minute to go before half time.
Again the sample size is low, but the numbers suggest VERY good free shooters can be ICED in between the 1st and 2nd free throw with a timeout.
The numbers tell us that “icing” is real, certain players are far more susceptible than others and should be targeted accordingly. Late in the 4th quarter, why not try some “hack-a-shaq” on players who are known to freeze up after a timeout?
As per the sign off on my last post, the Warriors are once again ahead of most teams by calling timeouts between free throws with it clearly having a remarkable effect on reducing free throw percentages. Teams should be following suit.
Seems like a theme is building here with the Warriors doesn’t it?
 Thanks to www.nbastuffer.com for providing play by play data (Data effective of March 6)