Saturday, April 26, 2014

Studs, Pressure, and Us.

With less than ten seconds left in today's Indiana-Atlanta playoff game, the Indiana Pacers had a three point lead and the ball.  An inbounds pass was made to Paul George who was fouled as he went to catch the ball.

Indiana started the season extremely well.  Even though they played poorly at the end of the season they are the top ranked team in the East during this year's NBA playoff tournament.   Because of their top seeding they get to play the worst team in the East that made the playoffs--the Atlanta Hawks. How bad were the Hawks? Despite getting into the playoffs, the Hawks had less than a 500 record. For those mathematically challenged, this means they lost more games than they won.

So the best team in the East is playing the worst team in the best of seven first round.  But the Indiana Pacers look dazed. I had watched parts of the first three games of the series and thought neither team was playing well and the Hawks had won two out of the first three games.  There has been some media talk, that if the Pacers were to lose to the Hawks in this series, the Pacers' coach would get fired.  In addition, the players have been criticized for not showing up and playing like amateurs after playing so well in the early part of the season.

It looked like the Pacers were going to win the game and tie the series because they were up by three points with less than ten seconds to go and their stud, Paul George, was going to the foul line .  All George would have to do is make one of two free throws to seal the game, because then even a three point shot by Atlanta would result in an Indiana victory.  Paul George is the leading scorer on the Pacers; he was a first round draft pick selected 10th overall in the 2010 draft--meaning he was the tenth best player eligible of all those aspiring to play professional basketball that year.  And, Paul George is a terrific free throw shooter.  This year he made 86.4 % of his free throws.

Paul George has been making free throws his whole life.  All he needed to do was make one of two to seal an important game.

He missed the first one badly.  Very short.  If you played the game, you know that you miss short like that when you are tight. You don't extend your arm because you are nervous.  George nodded his head as in "no problem I will make the second one."  The second was jacked up worse than the first. It hit the back of the rim and bounded away.

So, Atlanta had a chance to win. They did not missing a three point shot as time expired, but that is peripheral to the point.

One of the best basketball players on the planet, did not miss two foul shots, he choked on them. His anxiety got to him and altered how he does things.

Does this happen to all of us. No matter how skilled we are, are there moments when a lot is on the line, and what we can do in our sleep and effortlessly, is done poorly because of anxiety.  Having a conversation, something we do regularly daily, becomes a task when we believe there to be a lot on the line.  We search for words and can't find them.

Paul George is a millionaire. He makes the shots or misses the shots, he will still be able to buy the most expensive suit on the rack.  He has proven himself as an outstanding athlete.  He has probably made dozens of foul shots in a row when practicing. Of players this season who attempted at least 400 foul shots, he has the fourth highest foul shooting percentage in the entire league.

Yet he throws up two bricks when there is a lot on the line.

I think for us all, a key to success, is to make the foul shots when a lot is on the line.  And as we get older, our ability to--metaphorically--make foul shots is there, but our ability to withstand the pressures that accrue each time we run around the track, makes it more difficult to sink the shot.

No comments:

Post a Comment