The lack of touches bothered Dwight Howard. The physical play irked him, too. The frustration over an eventual double-digit playoff loss escalated enough to show something far from what his team expected from him as the NBA’s most athletic and dominant center.
He failed to produce on either end of the floor. He committed silly fouls. He then walked through the entrance tunnel in shame before the loss became official.
The Lakers, Kobe Bryant and their passionate fanbase remember these images well, Howard’s last game in a purple and gold uniform two years ago ending with an ejection well before the San Antonio Spurs swept the Lakers in a forgettable first-round series. Yet, nearly the same scene played out again for Howard wearing a Houston Rockets uniform as they suffered a 128-95 Game 4 loss of their Western Conference semifinals series to the Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center.
The Rockets pledged they would feature Howard more on offense in Game 4 after he only had three second-half field-goal attempts in a Game 3 loss. Instead, Howard recorded nearly as many fouls (six) as points (seven) and rebounds (six) as the Clippers took a 3-1 lead with a chance to close out the series in Houston on Tuesday and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
“We were able to take him out of the game mentally,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes boasted afterwards. “They need him on the floor to be able to win.”