Missing two free throws in a tied game at the conclusion of regulation is somehow a worse way to lose a game. Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics, a forward, learned the hard way that you may talk smack before your misses.
Boston had lost three of its previous four games and had a 15-point lead in both the second and third quarters of their away game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. Even with 4:15 left in the fourth, the Cavaliers were behind by double digits, but they came back to tie the game at 109-109 in the closing seconds.
After Donovan Mitchell made a pair of game-tying free throws, the Celtics held the ball with 5.8 seconds left. Williams received a failed Payton Pritchard layup into his hands, and with 0.8 seconds left, he was fouled.
Williams, who had an 86.4% free throw shooting percentage during the previous two seasons, was now in a position to make a pair of free shots that may have won the game. Williams appeared to be telling Mitchell, “I’m going to make ’em both,” as if he should have been game over for Boston:
I’m sure you can see where this is going. Williams did not create two of them.
The Cavs did a commendable job of attempting to frost Williams following his first missed free shot. But ultimately, it should be assumed that a player like Williams will make at least one of the shots rather than missing both and forcing overtime:
The Celtics also struggled in the extra period, particularly when Mitchell threw down a huge dunk midway through. 118–114 was the final score in the Celtics’ defeat.
Williams did actually say he would make both free throws, Mitchell told reporters after the game. Mitchell added that the statement was the result of some personal jabs he had made:
You simply try to psychologically manipulate him to see what happens. I am certain that Grant will hit both free throws if he finds himself in that situation again tomorrow or the following day. He’s a good player, but all he’s trying to do is get inside his head a little.
Williams scored 12 points in the final frame on 4-of-6 shooting with four rebound. His lone visit to the free throw line that night was to try those baskets. Mitchell, meanwhile, recorded his third 40-point performance of the season against the Celtics with 40 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who are now in first place after suffering a tough loss of their own to snap a 16-game winning streak, are now two games behind the 45-21 Boston Celtics. At 41-26, the Cavaliers are 4.5 games behind them.