Spurs forward Tim Duncan gives the Lakers' Dwight Howard a grin as… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Dwight Howard has struggled at times to stay on the floor against the San Antonio Spurs. Offensive and loose-ball fouls have sent him to the bench too often while the Lakers are already playing with a desperately thin lineup.
In 35.3 minutes a game, Howard is averaging 20.3 points on 60% shooting with 11.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a night.
He's also averaging five fouls a game.
The Spurs' game plan has been to wrap up Howard whenever he's in the paint, often with multiple defenders. San Antonio has sent him to the free-throw line nine times a contest.
"I guess they did what they had to do," said Howard said after Friday night's blowout loss that left the Lakers in a 3-0 hole in the best-of-five first-round playoff series. "We just have to come back and be physical with them. That's what we have to do next game."
The Lakers haven't been able to spread the floor for Howard. Congestion in the paint is leading to offensive fouls he can't afford.
Of Howard's 15 personal fouls in the series, five have been offensive and five have been of the loose-ball/personal variety.
"I don't know what I need to do," said Howard. "I'm out there just being physical."
He also has been assessed two technical fouls in the three games.
Howard was disappointed and short with reporters after the loss. The team faces elimination on Sunday in Game 4 at Staples Center.
"Times are tough right now," Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Pau [Gasol] and Dwight played as hard as they could play. They were trying the best that they could do. Nobody likes it and nobody's happy but I don't fault the effort of the guys or the will that they want to do it."
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.