The Celtics defense figured out exactly how to defend Kevin Durant, using a variety of looks, plenty of length and even more aggressiveness to minimize the superstar throughout the four-game sweep.
Boston was less subtle in attacking Nic Claxton’s weakness: just foul him a lot.
Hack-a-Clax took over the Nets’ 116-112 loss in Game 4 Monday night at the Barclays Center as the Nets center missed their first 10 free throws, seemed to have less confidence from everyone and caused increasingly loud groans from the home crowd.
The Nets were 6 of 15 from the line in the first half, seven of those misses by Claxton. They were eight behind at the break.
It wasn’t purely a throwback to Hack-a-Shaq — Claxton usually only got fouled when he was near the hoop — but the Celtics tried to hit him hard whenever he was under.
Claxton went off the line 0-to-6 in the first quarter, missed another in the second and bricked three in the third before eventually hitting his 11th try. The building was loudest until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, when play was in limbo, when Claxton made a free throw.
“We all go through phases like this,” said coach Steve Nash of the 23-year-old, who had actually improved his foul shooting this season, going from 48.4 percent to 58.1 percent. “He’s a young player playing in a big game and he’s sort of a developing free-throw shooter.
“And that’s how I felt about him, but that’s part of the growing pains and he’s given us a lot over the past few months.”
Somehow, Claxton still delivered a reasonably productive game. The most agile and athletic center the Nets have, he was 6 of 6 from the field for 13 points with six rebounds and taking the minutes Andre Drummond got earlier.
Claxton is the better defender, although he watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench when Blake Griffin got most of the big man minutes.
“Proud of him no matter what,” Nash said of Claxton, who finished 4th out of 22 in the series. “I think he’ll grow from it.”
https://nypost.com/2022/04/26/nets-nic-claxton-misses-10-straight-free-throws-amid-hacks/ Nets’ Nic Claxton misses 10 straight free throws amid hacks