That tactic helped the Rockets rally from a nine-point halftime deficit to take a lead, but it ended up failing them in a 123-114 loss.
Nobody was happy to see Hack-A-Shaq on either side.
"It wasn't a chess match," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They wanted to foul and we let them foul."
The Rockets intentionally fouled Pistons center Andre Drummond 21 times, including five times in nine seconds starting the second half. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff started K.J. McDaniels in the second half just so he could foul Drummond.
"Trying to win the game," Bickerstaff said quietly. "It didn't work. That's it, that's all I have to say about that."
Drummond went to the foul line 36 times, setting an NBA record with 23 missed foul shots. The Rockets committed a season-high 41 fouls and the Pistons attempted 59 total free throws, tying for the second-highest total by a Rockets opponent in franchise history.
Bickerstaff went to the strategy because center Dwight Howard left the game after 55 seconds because of a sprained ankle and his physical presence was lost. So Bickerstaff decided to foul Drummond, who coming in was making 35 percent of his foul shots.
Fouling Drummond, in theory, worked, but it hurt the Rockets from an offensive standpoint as they couldn't get into the flow of the game on the offensive and defensive ends.
"Very difficult," said James Harden, who did record a triple-double. "No rhythm to the game at all."
In one third-quarter stretch, the Rockets fouled Drummond 12 times and he went 5-of-16 from the line before checking out with 9:22 to play in the period. The Rockets went back to it again in the middle portions of the fourth quarter, trailing by 11, and Drummond went 2-of-4 during this stretch.
"Am I a fan of it? Do I like it? No, not really," said Trevor Ariza, who fouled Drummond during the fourth-quarter Hack-A-Drummond series. "But if that's what the game plan is, that's what you have to go out there and do."
Van Gundy had an interesting observation regarding the Rockets players' reaction to the strategy: They complained to the Pistons bench about it.
"These aren't fun games for anybody," Van Gundy said. "I think if you go in the Rockets' locker room, I think the players will tell you they didn't like it. They were talking to us, to our bench. I don't think any player wants to play that way. They want to play basketball, but it's not their decision."
Two retired players who watched the game, Calvin Murphy, the Hall of Fame guard with the Rockets, and Tim Hardaway, an assistant coach with the Pistons who played 15 seasons with five teams, said there's no need to change the rules -- just make some free throws.
"There's been so much said about the Hack-A-Whatever, should they change the rules? Absolutely not," Murphy said. "Take your behind in the gym and practice them. You don't change the game because of somebody's deficiency."
Murphy knows something about free throws, he was a career 89.2 percent foul shooter in a 13-year career, eighth-best all time.
Hardaway agrees that making free throws will force teams to stop the Hack-A-Shaq strategy. He also agrees with the Rockets that the offensive flow of the game bogs down.
"No question, after the first two or three minutes we weren't loose to go out there and play," said Hardaway, a career 78 percent foul shooter. "It's kind of tough, but that's the rules. I'm good with it, some people don't like it. I think that's the rules. You've got to work on your craft."
When Drummond was taken out with 5:32 to play in the fourth quarter, the Rockets trailed by 13. The best the Rockets could do with Drummond out was cut the deficit to nine points, but they couldn't get enough stops to make things closer.
So while using Hack-A-Drummond worked in some instances, with him off the court, the Rockets didn't make enough plays to win.
"By fouling him early, we got into a rhythm of fouling," Marcus Thornton said. "Without him in the game, now we really have to lock in on defense and we're kind of tight out there because we haven't been moving around. We're just out there just trying to follow the game plan and that's what the game plan was."