“You think about pulling it off but we stuck with it,” Budenholzer said after the game when Jordan made three of his first four attempts at the start of the strategy. “It helps change the rhythm of the game a little bit and gives our guys a break. They’ve just got such a good team, sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils.”
In addition to missing free points, the strategy gets Jordan out of the game. He finished with five block shots and without the defensive presence the entire floor opened for the Hawks.
“More, just not making (them),” Budenholzer said on his primary motive in the strategy. “But he has a huge impact on them defensively. His screening, everything. He’s a huge part of them. You never know that the other coach is going to do, keep him in or take him out.”
The Hawks tried the strategy in an 85-83 loss to the Clippers in January in Atlanta. Jordan ended up 7 of 12 from the free-throw line in the game, including four straight makes late in the narrow victory.
“It was effective tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Overall, it has not been effective. I thought they did a good job. Every time they had a lead, they used it and that is the way it is supposed to (be done). I thought it was effective. In each quarter they tried to do it and it hurt us a little bit.”
Jordan finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes of the loss. He was clearly frustrated by the strategy and his performance after the game.
“You don’t play and compete,” Jordan said. “I am going to live with Doc’s decision. I have to be able to make the free throws and make at least one out of two for our team.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has admitted to being “conflicted” by the strategy of deliberately fouling poor free-throw shooters. He said in February, the league might look at rule changes this summer.
Opinions vary on the matter. Some think the strategy slows the game to an unwatchable pace. Others think free-throw shooting is an integral part of the game and lack of success is on the player.
“It actually works two ways,” Paul Millsap said. “If he’s not making free throws, he has to come out of the game. You could tell coach was a little hesitant to do it and cut down the flow because we had a good flow going. It’s a good strategy. He missed his free throws.”