New acquisition Tyson Chandler saved the Lakers against the visiting Hawks on Sunday, blocking a last-second Trae Young finger roll to preserve a 107-106 win. He also saved LeBron James from his ongoing ignominy from the charity stripe when the game is close at the end. Trailing 106-105 with 19.9 seconds remaining on Sunday, James clunked both attempts from the foul line. Thankfully for Lakers fans, fate intervened and LeBron ended up dunking a putback to take the lead with 15.3 seconds left, setting the stage for Chandler's block on Young.
After the game, James was ecstatic about Tyson's last-second snuff:
His enthusiasm waned significantly when it came to his accuracy from the foul line, though. According to the data, it might make sense to institute a hack-a-LeBron strategy if teams trail the Lakers by a couple of points late in the fourth. Since the start of last season, LeBron is connecting on just 48% from the free throw line in the final minute of a one-possession game, which is the worst percentage in the league among players with at least 10 such attempts. This year, he's even worse.
To his credit, James isn't running from the evidence. "I'm garbage," he said when asked about the misses Sunday night that almost cost them the game. "I suck from the free throw line right now. I'll get my rhythm back, but I thank [Kyle Kuzma] for giving me another opportunity—for giving us another opportunity—and then I just, he gave me another shot so I tried to give him another shot."
The misses come not that long after he missed two in overtime to a loss to the Spurs that inevitably led to the Kobe comparisons.
That's what you get playing in Los Angeles. The best player of his generation and the only name you can reasonably mention in the same breath as basketball's GOAT is held to the very highest standards. Except, this isn't an expectation LeBron win a title with this motley group of veterans and youngsters thrown together by Magic. No, he just needs to hit his free throws late in close games.