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The science behind missed free throws in basketball

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jun 28, 2021

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks are just two wins away from the NBA Finals, but in order to get there, they have to continue to close out games.

A big part of doing that means making free throws.

"I've seen it all. I've airballed shots. Game 7. I've airballed back-to-back free throws in Oklahoma. But it’s up from here,” Giannis Antetokunmpo said in a social video shared by the Milwaukee Bucks.

At practice, alongside teammate P.J. Tucker, Antetokunmpo spoke on overcoming any issues he’d run into. Including free throw shooting.

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The countdowns from opposing fans. The long routine. The wait and the build up and sometimes, the miss. The tense moments at times, making up a Antetokunmpo free throw.

TMJ4 News took a look at Antetokunmpo's past three seasons at the charity stripe. This year in the playoffs, his free throw percentage dropped to 55%, compared to 68% in the regular season.

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Antetokunmpo's free throw numbers also saw similar dips in the past two seasons.

“How does one tune out the outer influences?” TMJ4 News asked Dr. Monna Arvinen-Barrow, PhD.

“Well, that depends on the athlete and what is affecting them and disturbing their routine," said Arvinen-Barrow.

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Dr. Arvinen-Barrow is a sports psychologist working with all UW-Milwaukee athletes.

She says self-talk, breathing routines and practicing in different ways help athletes work through difficulties.

"There's strategies the athlete can use to control their thoughts, to block out distractions or to give themselves cues to focus on their own situations,” Dr. Arvinen-Barrow said.

Myles Coleman has been playing basketball since a young age. He’s a recent graduate of Brookfield Central and is heading off to Bethel University in Minnesota to continue playing ball.

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As an athlete, Coleman said his personal strategy is to focus on a solution, to simply work through any issues he'd run into while in a funk.

"No matter what I'm doing, I just work on it more and more. So, I can convince myself I'm good enough to do it, so I can do what I have to do,” Coleman said.

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