Dwight Howard missed 13 FTs, including one that could have saved the Hornets

To say Dwight Howard and the Hornets have had a rough season would be an understatement. Despite another incredible season from Kemba Walker, Charlotte has failed to meet any of its preseason expectations. Much of this has been explainable such as injuries to key players like Cody Zeller and coach Steve Clifford being out indefinitely with sickness.

However, what can be controlled is the free-throw line. Howard might have cost Charlotte a win in one of its worst losses of the season — a 115-111 Mavericks victory — due to an old nemesis: free throws. Howard finished the game 5 for 5 from the field. That’s good! He also shot 5 for 18 from the free-throw line and that’s horrendous.

Howard having a game like this isn’t particularly shocking considering his career struggles at the line, where he’s a career 56 percent shooter. Funny enough, Howard will have a game like this and then he’ll have one where he goes 14 for 18 from the line instead. It’s almost like gambling. Sometimes you bet on him and win. Other times you bet on him and lose.

Wednesday night, the Hornets lost in more ways than one. Obviously they lost the game, but there was a point where they could have tied the game. Down three at home to Dallas, Charlotte ran a set with Walker at the high point of the 3-point arc. The Mavs gave him space to shoot so he pulled from 3-point range, but it missed and Howard came down with the rebound. He tried to go for a putback and was fouled on the attempt.

All Howard had to do to keep the Hornets within range was make the free throws. Instead he missed the first and made the second. Charlotte proceeded to play the foul game, but because it was down four the missed free throw cost it a chance at tying the game.

This perfectly summed up Howard’s awful night. A missed free throw, at a point where he really needed to make it, to cap off a horrible night of free-throw shooting. But that’s all that happened. A bad free-throw night from a bad shooter. The Hornets knew this could happen when they traded for him and they knew it could happen when they put him on the floor in crunch time. 

It would be very easy to blame the entire loss on Howard here, but that’s silly. The Mavericks aren’t supposed to be a good team and were on their third game in four nights. The Hornets were coming off four days’ rest and are supposed to be the better team. Walker had 41 points. Everything about this game screams a win for Charlotte, but it couldn’t do it. Those are problems that run far deeper than a single missed free throw.