There are some accepted ways to win a basketball game: defend, rebound, take good shots, earn trips to the free throw line, etc. On Saturday night, the Memphis Grizzlies utterly failed to execute in one of those areas. But it didn't matter, because they won the game anyway.
Visiting the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, the Grizzlies managed a single free-throw attempt — a technical foul shot made by guard Courtney Lee following a defensive three seconds violation with 8:33 left in the third quarter. That stat is an NBA record for the fewest free-throw attempts in the shot clock era.
Even more incredibly, the Grizzlies somehow managed to get past that lack of production at the line and won the game 79-76.
Their players were startled to hear the news in the locker room. From Ronald Tillery for The Memphis Commercial Appeal:
“In the second half, the game got physical and that’s how we want to play,” Griz guard Courtney Lee said. “It played into our favor. We got active. We competed. We turned it up defensively.”
In snapping a two-game losing streak, Memphis (27-22) held Atlanta to a season-low in points. That’s notable given how difficult points were to come by. The Griz became the first team in NBA history to attempt one free throw in a game.
“Wow. Can I say wow?” Griz forward Zach Randolph said. “Man, I should’ve shot that one.”
The Grizzlies have a deserved reputation as one of the most physical teams in the NBA, so it makes some sense that they would perform well in a game in which officials let a lot of contact go. Nevertheless, there's something pretty shocking about earning zero foul shots via contact and still winning the game. As noted by Brett Pollakoff at ProBasketballTalk, only 13 teams since 1985-86 had won while attempting four or fewer free throws. It's just not an easy way to win.
Based on their reputation, the Grizzlies will probably take pride in being able to win a game while earning just one freebie. On the other hand, my guess is they don't want to tie this record ever again.
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