Dwight Howard reacts to being called for a defensive foul against the Pacers… (Harry How / Getty Images )
The Lakers lost by just two points on Tuesday night to the Indiana Pacers. That's a game the team simply gave away by collectively missing 20 free throws.
"Stop talking about [free throws]. I don't want to hear about it," said center Dwight Howard after a tough night. "That's my problem, thinking too much at the line. In practice I rarely miss, I shoot 80%."
With their record dropping to 7-8, how many of their eight losses were left at the line?
Oct. 30: Dallas 99 at Lakers 91
Lakers lose the season opener by eight, shooting 12-31 (38.7%) from the strip. That's 19 points left behind. Dwight Howard was responsible for 11 misses (3-14).
Nov. 7: Jazz 95 vs. Lakers 86
A visit to Utah drops the Lakers to 1-4 as the team hits 32-46 free throws (69.6%). Fourteen misses in a nine-point loss. Howard hits 5-12.
Nov. 13: Spurs 84 at Lakers 82
The Spurs win a close one. Howard shoots 3-6 while the team hits 14-22 (63.6%). That's another eight points left behind.
Nov. 27: Pacers 79 at Lakers 77
The Pacers get the upset on a last-second layup from George Hill. The Lakers missed four straight free throws late in the game while hitting 23-43 at the line. Howard shot just 3-12.
That's four games, half of the team's losses to date (three at home), where the margin between makes and misses at the line was greater than the difference between winning and losing.
The Lakers put a lot of pressure on both their offense and defense by not taking care of one of the most fundamental parts of the game.
Through 15 games, Howard is shooting 47.8% from the line (75-157) but he's not the only one struggling. Guard Darius Morris, currently starting with Steve Nash and Steve Blake out with injury, has hit just 56.5%. Off the bench, forwards Jordan Hill (61.5%) and Antawn Jamison (63.2%) haven't helped the cause.
So what does Howard see as the solution?
"For me, it's just going out there [to] shoot and not think about it. If I think, that's when I miss," said Howard. "I'll continue to practice, continue to stay positive and they're going to fall for me."
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You can email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.