The Los Angeles Lakers defeated Dwight Howard’s Houston Rockets 99-98 on Thursday night. Although this was neither the latter team’s first loss nor the former’s first win of the year, the game held a special sort of significance because of the way things ended between Howard and the Lakers this summer.
Despite the Lakers holding a commanding lead at certain points of the ballgame, a Rockets run felt inevitable throughout. Surely enough, led in large part by James Harden, Houston stormed back in the third and fourth quarters.
In desperate need to stop the momentum, Mike D’Antoni turned to a proven formula – fouling Howard. It worked. Thanks to Howard missing seven free throws late, the Lakers found themselves down a basket with less than two seconds remaining.
Enter: Steve Blake.
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The beautiful thing about that play, if you’re a Lakers fan, is that Howard’s inability to recover ended up being the reason why Blake was able to get such a clean shot off. If Howard had played that sequence the way he was supposed to, his length would’ve disrupted Blake’s rhythm.
Of course, as fun as it is to pile on Howard, he’s not the only reason they lost. Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley deserve their fair share of the blame, too. Howard had to recover because of how awful their switch was. It’s not difficult to see that Kevin McHale was prepared for the is inevitable screens, but his whole scheme was contingent on players making the switches that needed to be made. Lin and Beverley didn’t.