Howard: 'Free throws (were) terrible tonight'
Even a healthy Dwight Howard has some flaws in his game, all players do. His main flaw, however, can be exposed and exploited and that is exactly what happened in the Houston Rockets, 99-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Howard, a career 58 percent free-throw shooter, was sent to line repeatedly and intentionally in the fourth quarter by the Lakers as instructed by their head coach Mike D'Antoni.
He was sent to the line following intentional fouls six more times in the fourth quarter for 12 attempts. He made only five of them. Howard had missed all four of his free throw attempts in the first three quarters.
"I've got to make them," Howard said, referring to his free throws. "I was terrible at the line tonight."
The strategy began with 3:24 on the clock in the final quarter, with the Rockets leading 93-91.
"I have to get back in the gym and continue the work and they will fall," Howard said.
D'Antoni said he fouled Howard to slow down Harden. Ultimately he stopped the Rockets offense entirely. Howard's five made free throws were the only points Houston scored the rest of the game.
They only attempted four field goals the rest of the game, missing all of them.
"He's going to be in a lot of games," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said about Howard. "He made a couple. We're just going to have to make some free throws.
"It wasn't just Dwight tonight. We were 33-for-52 from the line," McHale said. "We didn't shoot the free throws very good and that doesn't help the cause either."
Those are accurate numbers, but that means with Howard converting just 5-of-16 (31 percent) free throws, the rest of the team was 28-of-36 (78 percent). That 78 percent clip would have been good enough for sixth-best in the NBA last season.