HOUSTON – At a time when the Lakers have little hope, they relied on something that mounted toward endless frustration only a year ago.
Dwight Howard went to free throw line.
The Lakers adopted the so-called “Hack a Dwight” strategy, which entails intentionally fouling him. The Lakers did so in hopes Howard would miss most of those attempts, grant the Lakers extra possession and finally stop all the losing.
The strategy may have given the Lakers an extra sense of glee after Howard departed the Lakers for the Houston Rockets this offseason. But the Lakers still lost 113-99, against Houston Wednesday at Toyota Center for the same reason Howard remained skeptical of the purple and gold’s championship fortunes.
The Lakers have too many injuries to count, leaving them both without any defensive presence or consistent outside shooting. Sprinkle in conceding more than 100 points for the third consecutive game. Dash in the Lakers shooting only 6-of-23 from three-point range. Mix it all together, and the Lakers (14-21) lost their ninth game in the last 10 contests.
“We can only do that in the fourth quarter, huh?” said Lakers forward Nick Young who reported improvement in his sore back after scoring 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting. “We should do that the whole game. We need a win!”
Howard, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, went 7 of 14 from the foul line when the Lakers began intentionally fouling him with 4:41 remaining. But that couldn’t erase the Lakers’ third-quarter where they were outscored, 33-15. It also didn’t help Houston guard James Harden drove to the basket with ease en route to 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting. Or that the Lakers’ 18 turnovers led to Houston scoring 27 fast-break points.
Yet, the Lakers still hacked Howard, determined his poor foul shooting would suddenly offset double-digit margins. It didn’t. And the Rockets fans booed loudly.
“It’s nothing I like,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who decried the tactic last season. ”It’s an ugly game. You try to win. It’s in the rules. You have something to do or some place to go? It’s not like we were stopping them.”
Hence, why Lakers center Chris Kaman shared exchanges with Howard, who repeatedly looked annoyed with the tactic.
“I started fouling him and they weren’t calling it,” said Kaman, who made his first appearance in six games. “So I was smacking him harder. I didn’t want to mess him up. I didn’t really care. But I wanted to let him know, don’t be a [jerk] about it. This is what I’m supposed to do.”
The strategy made for a game as gross as the heavy whipped cream Kaman drank after the game.
“I see the situation improving once we get bodies back,” said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who posted 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 12 rebounds. “It can’t get any worse than now.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org