A few years back we had “Hack-a-Shaq,” a late-in-the-game strategy where teams would intentionally foul Shaquille O’Neal hoping he would miss free throws as teams tried to make up deficits in the fourth quarter. It appears a new strategy focused on intentionally fouling Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard may be fast gaining steam as the NBA 2013-14 season gets into full swing.
In Thursday’s game between the Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, the Lakers intentionally fouled their former center hoping the charity-stripe challenged Howard would miss free throws thus giving them a “defensive stop” and a chance to score. The strategy worked as Howard for the game made only five of 16 free throws in the Lakers one-point (99-98) win over the Rockets. The Lakers’ success with this strategy may prompt other teams to try the same ploy in close games this season as they look to beat Houston.
This strategy got me thinking about NBA big men who would never be the victim of this Hack-a-(fill in the blank) game plan. The first name that came to mind is Dirk Nowitzki. The Dallas seven-footer is recognized as one of the best shooters in the game, let alone the game’s best shooting big man. A closer look at some stats confirmed my opinion. Based on NBA players 6-foot-10 or taller with a minimum of 1,000 career free throws attempted, Nowitzki has the best free throw percentage at .878.
Here’s a look at the players 6-foot-10 or taller (minimum of 1,000 free throws attempted) who made 82 percent or more of their free throws.
Dirk Nowitzki .878 (7-footer)
Jack Sikma .849 (6-foot-11)
Danilo Gallinari .844 (6-foot-10)
Mike Gminski .843 (6-foot-11)
Bill Laimbeer .837 (6-foot-11)
Keith Van Horn .835 (6-foot-10)
Yao Ming .833 (7-foot-6)
Andrea Barghani .825 (7-footer)
Christian Laettner .820 (6-foot-11)
So which players have probably been the focus of a “hack-a” strategy during their NBA careers? Following are the players at the other end of the free throw accuracy scale… those players (6-foot-10 or taller with 1,000 minimum free throw attempted) with the worst career free throw percentages.
Chris Dudley .458 (6-foot-11)
Wilt Chamberlain .511 (7-foot-1)
Shaquille O’Neal .527 (7-foot-1)
Olden Polynice .535 (6-foot-11)
Greg Anderson .557 (6-foot-10)
Bill Russell .561 (6-foot-10)
Dale Davis .562 (6-foot-11)
Mark West .568 (6-foot-10)
Greg Ostertag .569 (7-foot-2)
Where does Dwight Howard rank on this list? Howard is currently 12th in this ranking with a career free throw percentage of .576.
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Darrel Young had three rushing touchdowns for the Washington Redskins in their 30-24 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. It was the second time this season that the Redskins had a running back score three rushing TDs in a game (Roy Helu did it earlier in the year versus the Bears).
In fact, of the last five times that an NFL running back scored three or more TDs’ via the run in a game, the Redskins have done it three times… with three different running backs. Washington feature back Alfred Morris had three rushing scores in a 28-18 win over the Dallas Cowboys last season in the regular-season finale.
If we go back to 1970, there have been 362 times when a running back had three or more TDs via runs. Teams are 324-38 in those games, a .895 winning percentage. But for the Redskins, having a running back score three-plus TDs via runs has been a golden path to success. The Redskins have had 20 such games since 1970 and have won all 20!
For Young, Morris and Helu, it was the first career game for each with three rushing touchdowns. That’s 11 games fewer than the player who has the most games with three-plus rushing TDs, LaDainian Tomlinson. His 12 games are three more than Priest Holmes and Emmitt Smith.
Here are the running backs with the most games with three or more rushing TDs since 1970.
12: LaDainian Tomlinson
9: Priest Holmes, Emmitt Smith
8: Marshall Faulk
6: Shaun Alexander, Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell, Joe Morris, Barry Sanders
5: Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James, Walter Payton, Adrian Peterson
For Tomlinson, his team was a perfect 12-0 in those games when he had three or more rushing TDs.
One final note: The last player to score three or more rushing touchdowns in a loss was Chicago’s Matt Forte on October 20. If you haven’t guessed it already, that game was played against the Redskins.
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