Dwight Howard said he will make Spurs “pay” for “Hack a Howard” strategy

Dwight Howard offered a direct challenge to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to try to implement the so-called “Hack a Dwight” strategy when the Lakers begin their first-round series Sunday against San Antonio.

“If they’re going to do that the whole series, God bless them,” Howard said. “There’s nothing I can do about it but go up there and shoot the free throws. Even if I make them, they’re still going to do it. So, that’s not my concern. My concern is what I can control on the defensive end and then on the offensive end, just dominate. If they foul me, they foul me. We’re going to make them pay.”

Howard has lived up to those words, most famously when he went 25 of 39 from the foul line in March during his first return to Orlando since accommodating his trade request this offseason to the Lakers.

But Howard hasn’t consistently shown he can thrive at the free throw line, shooting only 49.2 percent this season. Though he dominated otherwise with 26 points and 17 rebounds in the Lakers’ win Sunday over San Antonio, Howard only went 8 of 17 at the foul line.

“I’m sure they’ll try it,” D’Antoni said. “We worked on Dwight being evasive out there today so they couldn’t catch him. But we’ll just deal with it. He’s going to make shots and he’ll make his foul shots.”

Popovich already adopted the “Hack a Shaq” tactic when D’Antoni coached the Phoenix Suns and lost in five games to San Antonio in the 2008 Western Conference semifinals. During that series, Shaquille O’Neal went only 32-of-64 from the foul line. D’Antoni loathes the strategy so much that he even said this season the NBA should outlaw it.

Although he considered his view “self serving because of Howard’s poor free throw shooting, D’Antoni maintained he still would favor a rule change.

“I know when they vote, I guarantee I’ll vote yes,” D’Antoni said. “But the league will look at it. They look at everything, always. They just want to get it better. If it’s better for the game,, then great. But, it’s not me to say when you have guys that they’re doing it to [ban ot]. But, I’m sure it will happen, and Dwight will step up and knock them down.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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