- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It had been almost a month since a team last threatened to break out a "Hack-a-Howard" routine to stop Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard by trapping him at the free-throw line all night.
The strategy surfaced again Tuesday in the Lakers' 95-90 win over the Brooklyn Nets when Howard's 23-point, 15-rebound, four-block effort was marred by a 7-for-19 mark from the line. It was almost contagious as L.A. shot just 19-for-37 on free throws overall as a team.
Howard's struggles from the line were particularly pronounced during the fourth quarter when he connected on just 3-of-10 attempts and the Lakers' offense seemed to grind to a halt.
However, as dicey as things got with Howard turning freebies into anything but free, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he invites other opponents to try the same technique.
"The thing with Dwight, I hope you know, if they start Hack-a-Dwight and he's making one out of two, that's a possession," D'Antoni said. "That's one point per possession. That's pretty good basketball, especially down the stretch. So that's fine. If they want to do that, that's great. I got no problem with it."
The last coach to consider the strategy before the Nets' Avery Johnson was Portland's Terry Stotts. Howard had just come off a 3-for-14 game from the line on opening night against the Dallas Mavericks and Stotts openly contemplated escorting Howard to the free-throw line all night against the Trail Blazers. Although Portland didn't purposefully end up parading Howard to the line, the All-Star big man ended up giving the Blazers no choice but to foul him when he got deep post position and ended up going 15-for-19 on foul shots.
"It didn't work tonight," Howard said of Brooklyn's strategy. "We won ... I just got to keep playing, no matter how many free throws I miss or make. Just not allow that to affect me on the defensive end, or just being aggressive on offense. The free throws will come. I want to keep shooting them. I keep practicing them every day and they're going to start falling."
According to a white board hanging in the Lakers' practice facility last week, Howard was 576-of-716 (80 percent) on free throws at practice since Oct. 12.
"I just got to do what I do in practice," Howard said. "I make them a lot in practice, but I got to transfer those free throws from practice in the game. They will come. I won't start losing the faith."
Kobe Bryant, who has scored 7,472 of his 29,773 career points at the foul line (25.1 percent), supports the strategy as well, viewing it as a way to pick up easy points when the opponent is challenging you and putting you on the spot.
"It's great," Bryant said. "I think it's great for him to be in that situation, to deal with it and to just kind of relax and step up and shoot them. I think it’s great."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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