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Tristan Thompson ready to claim 'free money' at foul line if Raptors continue hacking strategy

By Chris Fedor • May 2, 2017 at 3:30 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Desperate, the Toronto Raptors' typically stingy defense being shredded with relative ease, head coach Dwane Casey had no other recourse. He went to the last-resort strategy, fouling Tristan Thompson -- the Cleveland Cavaliers' worst free-throw shooter -- on purpose.

"I am not surprised, especially in the playoffs," Thompson said of the strategy. "Teams are going to throw that at you and try to junk up the game a little bit. I just got to get up there and knock them down and keep practicing in practice. Try not to be a liability out there."

Down 16 with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Patrick Patterson wrapped up Thompson, who shot a career-worst 49.8 percent from the stripe during the regular season.

It's usually a sound plan. Teams would probably rather see Thompson at the line than watch Kyrie Irving wiggle his way into the paint, LeBron James race past helpless defenders or the Cavs launch open 3-pointers. After all, Thompson went 3-of-7 in the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

But as soon as it happened Monday, Thompson shrugged it off and confidently walked to the line before burying both.

"Free money," Thompson said of his approach. "Just have to go up there and knock 'em down. Free money. That's how I view it.

"That's why in practice I try to make sure I get enough just to get the rhythm and the feel because if they do go to that you have to go up there and make them. Don't try to think too much, stick with your rhythm and shoot the ball. Just go up there and shoot your shot."

After making the pair, the Raptors abandoned the tactic. Thompson finished 5-of-6 on the night, the best percentage he has shot in a game with more than two attempts since late January when he went 5-of-5 in a double-digit win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While Thompson remains an easy target and should probably expect more Hack-a-Thompson throughout the postseason, he's doing his best behind the scenes to work through the struggles. He stays late, following every practice and shootaround, to hoist extra attempts with assistant coach James Posey at his own basket.

Earlier this season, Thompson received help from Kyle Korver, one of the NBA's premier shooters. Korver has also aided James with his shooting form and routine at the stripe.

"Kyle has been great for myself and other guys he's worked with," Thompson said. "If you look at his resume you have to listen to what he says, right?"

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