Charlotte --- Hawks coach Mike Woodson doesn't want to overanalyze his team's anemic showing from the free-throw line this season. Spend too much extra time on it and the problem could become a psychological issue.
Ignore it and the team could continue to falter.
Win or lose, the problem is there. Like it was during a loss in New York last week and a win Wednesday in Minnesota.
"We've coughed up leads in four or five games this season because we can't seem to get the job done at the free-throw line," said Woodson, whose team brings the league's second-worst free-throw percentage (.739) with them for tonight's game against Charlotte. "It's been our Achilles heel, I guess.
"At the same time, I don't want to linger on stuff like that. And I don't want players overthinking it. But it's cost us four or five games. That's just the reality."
It's a contrast to the reality the Hawks lived at the free-throw line last year, when they shot .772 --- a mark that would rank them among the top 12 teams in the league this season.
They did that without the aid of a shooting consultant. Mark Price joined the Hawks' staff before training camp, but the presence of one of the NBA's greatest free-throw shooters hasn't translated into shots made.
No Hawks player has struggled the way Josh Smith has. He's shooting .597 and is 13-for-32 (.406) since Jan. 23.
"I call myself a free-throw practice shooter," Smith said, acknowledging that his troubles are more psychological than physical. "I make them in practice, but then it kind of turns into a mental thing in the game and I don't give myself a chance to make free throws.
"I was a confident free-throw shooter last year and the years before that, so it's hard to explain. I think we all have to get back to having confidence in ourselves and step up and make those shots. I know for me it's a matter of concentration. It's that simple."
If only it were.
Smith made 2 of 10 free throws in that loss to the Knicks and 3 of 8 in the win over the Timberwolves. Both times his free-throw woes overshadowed stellar performances.
Against the Timberwolves, Smith had company down the stretch. The Hawks missed 6 of 14 fourth-quarter free throws. That made it impossible for them to stretch a 17-point lead to 25 or 30 and win going away.
"The hard part sometimes is just getting there," said Marvin Williams, one of three Hawks, along with Joe Johnson and Mo Evans, shooting better than .800 from the line. "You work so hard on an offensive possession to get to the foul line, and then when we do, it's a wasted play because we make just one out of two.
"I think I missed three or four in a row [against the Timberwolves]. It's just a lack of focus, especially down the stretch. But guys have to lock in and do everything it takes to make those free throws. Because as soon as you start thinking about it and everybody starts getting into your mind, it's going to be a long night."
NEXT FOR Hawks
* Who: at Hornets
* When: 7 p.m. Friday
* TV; radio: FSSO; 790 AM