The Timberwolves lost control of a game they had a grip on Sunday night, suddenly finding themselves down by three points twice in the final 10 seconds. Both times, Wolves star Jimmy Butler had a shot to tie it. Both times, the attempt that could have sent the game into overtime rimmed out.
In the second instance, nothing but a little bad luck and circumstance played a role. Butler had to rush a three-point shot at the buzzer as he raced up the court, and the ball banked off the glass and rattled around the rim before falling harmlessly to the ground in a 100-97 Wolves loss to Detroit.
If the second miss was desperation, though, the first miss was anything but that. Fouled by Avery Bradley while shooting a three-pointer with 6.2 seconds left and the Wolves trailing 98-95, Butler went to the line and calmly sank the first two tries to get the Wolves within 98-97.
As he worked into his rhythm to attempt the third, though, Butler was interrupted by Pistons guard Reggie Jackson, who came barreling toward the lane from the three-point line, ostensibly to communicate something with teammate Stanley Johnson.
Butler, though, probably recognized something else was at play: an attempt to knock him off his rhythm. Butler glared at Jackson for several seconds — a look that either said, “come on, I know what you’re doing” or “come on, this isn’t going to work” — or maybe both.
Intentional or not, the interruption worked out for the Pistons. Butler, a great late-game free throw shooter who was 72 of 76 over the past two seasons on clutch free throws, had his third attempt spin out. The Wolves had to foul and the Pistons made both, setting up Butler for that final desperation heave that also just missed.
Reggie Jackson might have made the difference… �� pic.twitter.com/dXxxXvwrAh
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) November 20, 2017
When it comes to gamesmanship, trying to tweak a free throw shooter is nothing new. You see the players standing in rebounding position try all sorts of things — moving slightly as the shooter begins his motion, talking trash, etc.
If Jackson was really engaging in some gamesmanship … well, kudos to him. It might have made the difference between a win and a loss.