Oklahoma City — By describing Dwight Howard as a “handful,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks has one idea on how to slow him down.
Like almost every NBA team has has played the Lakers, Brooks is hardly opposed to the “Hack a Dwight” strategy that involves intentionally fouling him and hope his career-low 46.9 percent mark from the line holds up.
But when the Lakers (9-10) play the Thunder (15-4) tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, will Brooks actually follow the strategy? Or will he believe physical defenders Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka prove enough in slowing Superman down?
“I don’t know. That’s an option a team has,” Brooks said. :We’ve always had a philosophy that if a guy shoots a bad free throw, if he has the opportunity to get an easy layup, you wrap him up and put him to the line. If we feel like it’s going to help our chances to win, we’ll definitely consider it.”
The Thunder adopted that strategy in Game 2 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals against San Antonio by intentionally fouling Tiago Splitter. There’s a tremendous sort of irony in it considering Spurs coach Gregg Popovich famously has frequently adopted that tactic. Although the Spurs won Game 2, Splitter went six of 12 from the line and slowed the momentum of the game down.
“There was a good chance we wouldn’t win that game,” Brooks said. “But we wanted to change the rhythm of the game and the rhythm of the series.”
Incidentally enough, the Thunder won that series in six games.
Although Howard went a combined 17 of 37 in both of those losses, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has remained highly supportive of his star center. He scoffed at the idea of benching him out of belief Howard will soon correct his errors. D’Antoni also blamed the Lakers defensive inconsistency for both losses. And D’Antoni credited Howard for making his first free throw to inhibit New Orleans from intentionally fouling him in the team’s loss Wednesday to the Lakers.
“This isn’t a one-on-one matchup or a matchup between bigs,” Howard said. “It’s between the Lakers and Thunder. I’m not going go get caught up in indvidiual matchups. They have a lot of bigs, which is great. But as a team, we need to get better and get some wins under our belt.”
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