Markelle Fultz says ball slipped out of hand on pump fake free throw


A lot of positive things happened for the Sixers in Monday night’s 124-114 win over the Heat (see observations). 

The dominant Joel Embiid had his ninth 30-point game of the season, posting 35 points and 18 rebounds; after breaking his nose and suffering a facial laceration Tuesday, a masked Mike Muscala returned to action; Furkan Korkmaz scored a career-high 16 points and looks like he may be able to provide the shooting the Sixers need off the bench.

Markelle Fultz’s second free throw with 6:09 left in the second quarter does not fall into that positive category.

After making his first free throw, Fultz pump faked on his second. He jerked the ball out as if he was going to shoot, then lowered it a few inches before releasing it (see video).

Speaking to reporters in Miami after the game, Fultz had an explanation for the odd shot.

"I mean, the ball slipped out of my hand, so I had to do what I had to do,” Fultz said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “But I’m not really worried about it. I work on my game. The ball just happened to slip. That’s what happened."

The noticeable hitch in Fultz’s free throws over the last couple games makes that explanation seem implausible. 

Brett Brown said he’s noticed the hitch on occasion. 

“Every so often you’ll see it,” he said. “Then all a sudden he’ll come back and he’ll take rise-up, fadeaway jump shots and look like a real sort of fluid type of player, real fluid type of motion in his shot. … And then you go and see other ones and you wouldn’t have any idea that there’s any problem at all. I thought that his defense was exceptional. We’re going to keep encouraging him and try to shoot more of those shots that we saw where his fluid side was really impressive, rising up over bigger people.”

While Fultz’s free throws Monday night certainly weren’t fluid, other parts of his game continue to progress. As Brown noted, his defense keeps improving, and he’s looked more and more confident attacking the basket. He shot a season-best 7 for 9 in Saturday’s loss against the Grizzlies. Fultz has also taken care of the ball very well for a 20-year-old guard — after Monday’s five-assist, zero-turnover effort, he has a 2.79 assist to turnover ratio.

However, his shot has not progressed. He hasn’t attempted a three-point shot in the past seven games, and he’s made 4 of his last 12 free throws.

On Tuesday, the attention will shift from Fultz’s shot to Jimmy Butler, who will be introduced as a Sixer in Camden. But, in all likelihood, the unusual shooting form of the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft will continue to be a major storyline for the Sixers.

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