Turnovers allowed the Rockets back into the game, and offensive rebounds lost the game. Other than that, the Lakers actually played well Tuesday night in Houston.
Offensively, they shot 46 percent from the field and were not especially bad from the free throw line. They played well on the defensive end of the floor and looked like the better team for the vast majority of the game.
Unfortunately, they were unable to pull down defensive rebounds or take care of the ball consistently enough to put the Rockets away. The Rockets 29 second-chance points added up, and when it mattered most, the Lakers failed to execute with the game on the line.
For the second straight game, the “Hack-a-Howard” (see note 1A) was employed in the fourth quarter against the Lakers. Rather than allowing Kobe Bryant to shoot the ball and get into a rhythm (entertaining), the Rockets preferred to endure a night of Dwight Howard free throws (brutal).
Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard both entered the game with the Lakers up by 7 points and just over six minutes left in the ball game. Promptly, the Lakers threw the ball away twice, and Kobe missed a shot. Then, the Mamba started showing signs of taking over by making a shot and earning a trip to the foul line on consecutive possessions.
At this point, the Rockets went to the “Hack-a-Dwight” in lieu of a shootout against the Mamba.
At first, the strategy started strong with Dwight missing his first two foul shots. Ultimately, it was hardly worth the anguish, as he hit five of his next eight from the charity stripe. Quantifying the nominal value of the” Hack-a-Dwight” is simple, but the strategy makes basketball fans’ eyes bleed an immeasurable amount.
The Lakers were up 97-93 with 3:17 left when the Rockets started intentionally fouling Howard away from the ball. The next 1:08 minutes of game-time consisted of watching Howard shoot 10 free throws, and the Rockets shoot four free throws. After the arduous fan torture was over, the Lakers were up by 2 points with two minutes to go, so that means the Rockets gained 2 points, “and the deuces are wild” (See Note 1B).
Howard didn’t shoot another free throw for the rest of the game. He actually didn’t do anything on the offensive end. After watching Howard shoot free throws for five straight possessions, Kobe Bryant took four shots in the last four possessions. He made one memorable 3-pointer. He missed three shots, including the potential game-winner.
“Hack-a-Dwight” worked in breaking Kobe’s rhythm. He shot 14-for-31 on the night but was 1-for-4 in the final two minutes. The Mamba scored 39, but the Lakers lost 107-105 to Houston on Tuesday night.
Note 1A: “Hack-a-Howard, or “Hack-a-Dwight,” is the modern derivative of the far more rhythmic sounding “Hack-A-Shaq,” the phenomenon when the opposing team decides that the best statistical defense they can play is to foul Shaquille O’Neal (Now Dwight Howard). This strategy is incredibly painful for the fans who have to endure watching free throws, rather than basketball.