Dwight Howard's struggles from the free-throw line were a big factor in the Houston Rockets 99-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, but even the biggest Howard hater can't deny how effective D12 has been this year.
Yes, Howard made just 5-of-16 from the charity stripe in the game, but his failures have been few and far between in the first two weeks of the NBA season.
Even with the team still working out the kinks in rotation and chemistry, Howard has already established himself as a major factor.
These Kind of Numbers Don't Lie
With James Harden on the roster pouring in 26.8 points a night, Howard provides sufficient low-post production, averaging 17.0 points through six games. His blocked shots are a little down from his normal pace at 1.3 per contest, but he still has time to get that number up.
Most of all, Howard has been an absolute glass-eater. He's averaging 14.5 rebounds per game, which is second in the NBA to Kevin Love's 14.7.
The Rockets were looking for a dominant inside presence, and thus far, Howard has given them that. Paired with Omer Asik to form a new version of a Rockets' Twin Towers, the team is set to have one of the most dominant frontcourts in the NBA.
Asik is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game, and the duo is the reason the team is second in the league in rebounding. Those numbers are nice, but at the end of the day only one number matters.
Some may look at D12's line and notice the similarities between his stats through six games with the Rockets and his line in 76 games with the Los Angeles Lakers last season. It's true, Howard scored 17.1 points and averaged 12.4 rebounds for the Lake Show in the 2012-13 season, but there is one big difference.
The Rockets are winning.
The Lakers had to inch into the playoffs on the final weekend of the season last year. So far this season, the Rockets are 4-2. L.A. began the season 0-3 last year and 2-4 in their first six games.
Ultimately the Lakers season would spiral out of control with chemistry issues and a season-ending injury to Kobe Bryant playing a major role. Injuries can happen to any team, but the chemistry issues don't appear to be a problem with the Rockets.
Head coach Kevin McHale is making smart decisions. Per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, McHale moved Jeremy Lin to the sixth-man role. Lin can be more aggressive in this role, but the move can also head off any potential friction with he and James Harden.
Thus far, the team is moving in the right direction.
Howard is the centerpiece of an exciting Rockets nucleus and one of the biggest beneficiaries of having a coach with a sideline presence. If things continue in this way, Howard haters can continue to hate him, but they can't hate on what he and the Rockets have and still can accomplish.
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