Dwight Howard was coming off 10 straight double-doubles entering Wednesday’s game against the Pistons, but he sprained his ankle 55 seconds in and didn’t return, so the Rockets had to adjust, and by adjust, I mean foul.
Andre Drummond came into the game shooting 35 percent from the free throw, and with the Rockets trailing by 9 at halftime and after Drummond hit just 2-of-8 from the line in the first half, Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff had K.J. McDaniels start the second. He played nine second and fouled Drummond five times. For awhile the strategy worked, but the Rockets lost 123-114.
The Rockets kept using fouls on Drummond, and with less than three minutes gone by in the third period, they sent him to the line 16 times, with Drummond connecting on just five. When Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy finally had enough, the Rockets trimmed the lead to a point, and led 68-65, but finished the quarter on a 20-11 run, and then took control in the fourth.
Drummond finished the game with 17 points on just four shots from the field. He shot 13-of-36 from the free throw line, three shy of the most attempts in NBA history, though his 26 misses are the most of all-time. All five Pistons starters finished in double-figures led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris’ 22. Detroit shot 48 percent from the field and knocked down 12 three-pointers.
Lost in all the fouls and Howard’s injury was James Harden’s first triple-double of the season and seventh of his career. He finished with 32 points, 14 assists and a career-high 17 rebounds. He also knocked down three treys, making him the youngest player in NBA history to drain 1,000.
Ty Lawson started for the first time since Kevin McHale’s firing due to Patrick Beverly’s sprained ankle and scored a season-high 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Clint Capela added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The loss drops the Rockets back to .500 at 22-22. They host Milwaukee on Friday night.