Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard was fined $15,000 "for making contact above the shoulders with Matt Barnes" in Game 4 of Houston's second-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Feigen passed along a highlight of the play, as Howard appeared to give Barnes an elbow to the face while the two wrestled for position off the ball:
The fortunate news for the Rockets is that Howard was not suspended. Houston finds itself trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven series against the Clippers and now must win three consecutive contests to keep its title hopes alive.
That task is already monumentally difficult as it is and would become nearly impossible without the services of one of the game's best centers. The Rockets need Howard to counteract Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan down low, especially after Houston allowed 128 points in its Game 4 loss.
Howard is an eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but the only way he can protect the rim against Los Angeles' big men is if he stays out of foul trouble.
Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com pointed out the difficulties Houston had in Game 4 after Howard fouled out:
Howard battled foul trouble all night before fouling out with 9:52 to play in the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin and Jordan banged with Howard on a consistent basis and the referees watched the battle closely enough, not allowing for many post moves. Howard scored a playoff-low seven points on 1-of-6 shooting.
It left Howard frustrated as he griped with the Clippers, much to the delight of the Staples Center crowd.
With Howard and his post presence gone along with Harden's ability to create, it left a tremendous void for the Rockets.
That cannot happen again in Game 5.