Division Math and Free Throw Perfection

On Sunday, I was flipping through some NBA pages on ESPN.com, and I noticed that on John Hollinger’s playoff odds, the Celtics, Cavaliers and Magic were all 100 percent locks to win their divisions. At first glance, it seemed surprising that a computer would actually say that, but let’s break this down:

-The Celtics are currently 37-9, and 14 games up on 2nd-place Philadelphia. If, by some horrible disaster, the Celtics went .500 the rest of the way, they’d finish with 55 wins. The 76ers would have to go 35-5 in their final 42 games to finish ahead of the Celtics. Not. Gonna. Happen.
-The Cavaliers are currently 34-8, and 10.5 games up on 2nd-place Detroit. Again, if the Cavs go .500 the rest of the way (meaning LeBron probably got hurt), they’d be a 54-win team. The Pistons are currently 24-19, so they’d have to go 31-8 to win the division outright. But, um, they’re not good enough for that.
-Now, for the Southeast. The Magic are 33-10, but they’re “only” 7 games up on the Hawks. Since Orlando has an uneven number of games left, they can’t go .500 the rest of the way. But if they go a game under .500 (19-20), they’re still a 52-win team. The Hawks, to get to 53 wins, would have to go 27-12. The Hawks part of that equation isn’t out of the question, but the Magic aren’t going to magically turn into a below .500 team.

So, yeah, the divisions in the East sure look like they’re locked down, meaning the only race for the Celtics, Cavs and Magic will be the race for the best record (and the home-court advantage that goes with it).

Outside of division races, there’s Jose Calderon’s quest to never again miss a free throw. Calderon is a perfect 83-for-83 on the season, and is fast approaching Michael Williams’s NBA record for consecutive free throws. But can Calderon stay perfect for the entire season? Some perspective:

-Coming into this season, 272 players have gone an entire season without missing a free throw (minimum 1 attempted).
-Among that group is 3 Hall-of-Famers (Bob Cousy, Walt Bellamy and Walt Frazier), all of whom did it in their final season, with very few attempts
-The record for most free throws made in a single season without a miss is 23 by Joe Hassett for the ‘78-79 Sonics. Amazingly, in his other 5 seasons, he never shot better than 83.8% from the line.

Because of how many free throws Calderon attempts, I feel like he’s bound to miss one eventually. But Sean Singletary, who’s played for the Suns and Bobcats this year, is currently sitting at 15-of-15, and plays significantly less time than Calderon, so he might have a shot at it.

Calderon, even if he misses one, has a good shot at the single-season free throw percentage record (among qualifiers). Calvin Murphy holds that mark, going 206-215 for the ‘80-81 Rockets, a 95.8% rate. Calderon would have to miss his next 4 free throws to fall below that mark.

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