The Boston Celtics earned an impressive season-opening win over the two-time reigning MVP winner Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Jayson Tatum played the role of hero for Boston by sinking a game-winning 3-pointer off the glass with 0.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Antetokounmpo was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass and went to the free throw line with a chance to tie the score. But he missed the second attempt and the Bucks lost 122-121.
Most people came away pretty impressed with the Celtics' win. They beat one of the league's top teams and their two young stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both scored 30-plus points.
FOX Sports 1's Nick Wright, however, didn't see the thrilling ending like most other observers.
"Announcers don't like to hear this and media members don't like to hear this, but here's a dirty truth about the NBA -- missed free throws don't actually really matter," Wright said on Thursday's episode of "First Things First." "Find me the last championship swung by a missed free throw. There's one in the last decade, Kawhi Leonard missed one before the Ray Allen 3 (in 2013). People love banging on, 'Oh my God, how do you not make your free throws,' because it's the one thing commentators can say, 'Well I could do it.' No, actually, in the moment you couldn't, you'd miss the basket entirely.
"Shaquille O'Neal was a historically bad free throw shooter. You know how many playoff games he lost because of free throw shooting? None that mattered ever, really."
When the conversation shifted to Tatum's shot, Wright seized on what he relishes: Taking aim at a Boston sports team or player.
"The fake take would've been this is the arrival of a superstar. These are the moments. This is how Jayson Tatum takes the next leap, and you're going to hear that all throughout the day.
"Here's the real take: That was an egregious miss that was missed so badly it went in. That's the answer. So what's the bigger deal? Giannis missed a free throw barely, Tatum missed his shot by four feet, so badly that it banked in. Here's what I know. He was not trying to bank this in. ... Listen, the win counts, and the Celtics feel good, but that's not a good shot. It's not that it's a bad shot because it was contested, it's a bad shot because he missed it by three-and-a-half feet. So, I say neither is a big deal -- Giannis' miss or Tatum's even worse miss that was missed so bad it went in."
Check out the full segment in the video below:
First off, missed free throws absolutely matter, especially when the specific miss being discussed literally cost the Bucks the game.
Too many missed free throws in pressure moments can weigh on players mentally, and it's not like Antetokounmpo has a history of clutch heroics to fall back on.
Ask former Orlando Magic forward Nick Anderson if missed free throws don't matter. His four consecutive misses late in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals ruined the series for Orlando.
Wright also mentioned how Antetokounmpo "barely" missed his second free throw. If you look at the replay, it's clear that Antetokounmpo was woefully short and he barely hit the front rim.
Tatum's shot obviously was a bit lucky -- no one tries to bank a 3-pointer at the end of the game -- but it went in, and that's what matters. The degree of difficulty was enormously high for Tatum because he's shooting over one of the longest players in the league and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Award winner.
You play to win the game, and Tatum delivered and Antetokounmpo didn't.