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Hack-a-Howard Didn’t Go Over So Well in the Locker Either

Warriors coach Mark Jackson has no shortage of critics regarding his decision to foul Dwight Howard intentionally so often Thursday night, leading to Howard taking an NBA-record 39 free throws. Safe to say the plan backfired as Howard finished with 45 points, 21 coming from the free throw line.

Fans and analysts alike were puzzled at Jackson’s strategy.

TNT’S KENNY SMITH: “Hack-a-Shaq was an effective (strategy) because the Lakers were a great team.  So to stay with them, that was a good method.  The Orlando Magic aren’t a good enough team that you have to foul Dwight Howard every time.”

But a few others were puzzled by Jackson’s decision. And they were in the Warriors’ locker room.

Talked to several players away from the cameras after Thursday night’s game. They didn’t understand why Jackson chose the route he did. Actually, they did understand the logic. What they didn’t understand was why Jackson felt they had no shot at defending Howard. A few players said they felt like the combination of Andris Biedrins, Ekpe Udoh and David Lee could’ve combined to hold Howard to less than 45 and 23.

There is some evidence for they could have limited Howard. Last year, when Orlando came here, Howard finished with 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting. He did have 21 rebounds, but he was hardly as dominant. And those three were (Biedrins, Lee, Udoh) defending him.

Before Thursday, Howard averaged 16.9 points on 55.4 percent shooting with 13.7 rebounds. Even if they could hold him to 20 and 15, the Warriors probably win that game.

DAVID LEE: “It’s a chance you take. We chose to do that. We chose to play him head-up on the block. It fouled Andris (Biedrins) and Ekpe (Udoh) and myself at the end there. … Dwight had a good game to his create and in the second half hit his free throws. We took a chance. Coach had the idea to do that and we stand behind our coach. It didn’t work out this time, maybe it worked out next time. But we took a chance and said we wanted Dwight to beat us and he beat us.”

To be sure, no player seemed mad at Jackson nor blamed him for the loss. But they were surprised Jackson not only went with Hack-a-Howard, but stuck with it.

Jackson had a few other options. One was to double-team Howard and make the others beat you. Especially once Jason Richardson went down with a knee injury, the Magic fewer weapons who could hurt the Warriors.

Jackson, with understandable logic, said he preferred to play Howard one-on-one and keep him away from the basket (by fouling when he gets close) than to allow the supporting cast to get hot from 3-point range.

JACKSON: “If you watch the Orlando magic, you can take two avenues. That’s playing Dwight Howard single-coverage or that’s doubling him and leaving the four shooters on the floor wide open. Those are knock-down shooters that they have. Dwight Howard, as great as he is, you can live with him on the offensive end away from the rim. He certainly can have big days, but I’d take those chances over leaving pure shooters open.”

Jackson could have also used offense for defense by having players go at Howard. He is an all-world defender, but making him play defense on his man instead of swatting shots from the weakside might have exposed Howard to some foul trouble. True, the Warriors have few players with the skills to attack Howard. But Lee, who played center for years in New York, has had big games against Dwight before by going at him.

No doubt, they clearly respect Jackson, and the moxie it took to go with and stick with such a game plan. None of the players I talked to seemed angry at Jackson or blamed him for the loss. But you got the sense that some players would have liked a crack at defending Howard instead of being pawns in a gimmicky game plan.

Marcus Thompson

  • bozo

    I seems people don’t realize what the idea behind hacking is. When you hack someone who’s a poor free throw shooter, you send them to the line and should normally get away with a max 1 of 2 FTs made. And that’s *less* than your average NBA team scores per possession. What you’re doing is, is making the opponent score less per possession. Who cares how many Dwight scored in the end. His team scored less than they normally would (in theory).

  • Al

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed that Howard would only pivot to his left and shoot with his right hand. Why didn’t the warriors overplay that side and force him to go to his right and shoot with his left hand?

  • J Canseco

    Gimmick ball… Some things never change.

  • Young

    If the warriors would have won, everyone would be singing Jackson’s praises. People need to stop saying whats obvious and start providing some real analysis…

  • Joey

    Here’s some real analysis: Jackson’s lack of coaching experience has been exposed so quickly into the season. He’s not a coach that will take this team anywhere. The W’s need all the help they can get and Jackson is not helping. Two years and he is gone.

  • Spencer

    Hes a young coach. Its gonna be a process.

    Marcua how about Kwames expiring for Andray Blatche?

  • Mark in Capitola

    I would rather watch the Warriors LOSE playing legitimate NBA basketball than WIN by continuously fouling an opponent’s best player. In fact, I won’t watch another game like that. I hope that this was a growing pain for Jackson. Apologies to Warriors players are in order, Coach.

  • Dave

    It was a good strategy at times, but was overdone.

  • PhillyJ

    never hire a head coach who doesn’t have any coaching experience. Mark Jackson needs to put in time as an assistant first before getting handed the head coach position. Another dumb move by Lacob and co.

  • Mick

    WEAK and Desperate move. Beans gets 9mill a year to foul a guy the whole game. UDOH is a top 5 pick and defensive specialist…let him play. I like Jackson, but come on. It shows a lack of confidence in your players.

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    Nice report Marcus. On point.

  • Grey Warden

    Once in a while, I don’t mind, if we’re losing the game. But hacking him multiple times, even with a lead was stupid. Basically ruined any chance at setting an up tempo game, which is what the Warriors need to score on their end. Terrible strategy, and took one of their primary scorers out in the end (Lee). They did the same thing to the Clippers, and they still lost the game. Mark Jackson needs to see the pattern here: hack-a-(insert name) isn’t working.

  • Atothev

    Bottom line is they were in the game til the very end with a severely shorthanded roster. Make a couple more stops (Von Wafer made a contested 3) at the end and a couple more shots and we win. To me that’s the coach giving his team their best chance to win.

  • robert rowell

    #1 while what you say may be technically correct, it doesn’t take into account possession efficiency. orlando is .964 efficient on its possessions, meaning that for every time they cross the half court line, they score .964 of a point. of course, this efficiency takes into account turnovers, offensive fouls, etc. once you put someone on the line, those things go out the window. add to that tempo and game rhythm and it really doesn’t do much help, unless a player is a horrific freethrow shooter, like goose, which howard isn’t.

  • NotSoOldBlue

    I was at the game, right up front. And there was NO way that Udoh could stop him. It was a joke. And Lee as well. Without Brown, they did not have the bigs to defend him. Howard is the best traditional big man in the NBA and we were clearly outgunned. Jackson didn’t have a lot of options.

  • LGGoose

    Picking on Jackson’s coaching misses the big picture- in a league where there are only 5 players on the court at one time the Warriors have one on the three worst rosters in the league talent wise.

    You could have Phil Jackson as the coach and they would have the same problems or at best 5 more wins. Better talent equates to more wins. It’s that simple.

  • warriors_oldway

    i like coach jackson but the hacking should have worked on a tight game and probably at the last quarter, when there’s more pressure. it was just deployed too early. the warriors even had a big lead. it slowed the game, killing their momentum. lesson learned.

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  • Moreaufan2

    I think he has done some good things but we still are a soft basketbll team. We are a no excuse basketball teams also, meaning we make no excuses for how soft we are, get monta some help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Moreaufan2

    Yeah we just need some tougher players in my opinion!