Carmelo Anthony took himself to task for making a costly mental error during New York's 109-106 home loss to Houston on Thursday.
Forgetting the rules that govern the popular "Hack-a-Dwight" strategy, Anthony intentionally fouled Dwight Howard with less than two minutes remaining in the game. That decision automatically awarded a free throw to the Rockets, who had their choice of players to shoot it, and gave the ball back to Houston. The mistake, which you rarely see given the prohibitive penalty attached to the infraction, helped stretch Houston's two-point lead to five points with 1:15 remaining, and the Rockets held on from there.
CBSSports.com reported the reaction to the sequence from both Anthony and Howard.
"That was a boneheaded play on my behalf," Anthony said.
"He made a mistake," Howard said. "Bargnani was going to do it to, but some of the guys told him, 'Don't do it.' And then Carmelo didn't hear it, and he did it. It happens."
After knocking down a pair of free throws to cut Houston's lead to 104-102, Anthony jogged back to play defense as the Rockets brought the ball up the court. As Howard passed the center line, Anthony grabbed him with a bear hug and held on until the foul was assessed with 1:36 remaining. Knicks coach Mike Woodson looked on in disbelief as the Rockets elected to send James Harden, a career 84.2 percent free throw shooter, to the line in Howard's place. Harden knocked down the free throw and the Rockets retained possession. On the ensuing play, Howard grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul from Andrea Bargnani, and knocked down his two free throws. The Rockets now held a 107-102 advantage.
Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of Anthony's error: TNT commentator Steve Kerr explained the late-game "Hack-a-Dwight" rules just seconds before Anthony broke it.
"We're under two minutes, so if Howard is fouled intentionally it's one free throw and the ball, so New York will not do that," Kerr explained. "But look for them to foul him in any legal situation, in other words, when he has the ball or when he's setting a screen."
Oops. Maybe next time Kerr can shout the rules just a little louder from his courtside seat.
According to the NBA's rulebook, Anthony committed an "away-from-the-play foul," which is defined as "illegal contact by the defense in the last two minutes of the game, and/or overtime, which occurs (1) deliberately away from the immediate area of offensive action, and/or (2) prior to the ball being released on a throw-in."
The rulebook clearly states the penalties involved when an "away-from-the-play foul" takes place: " A personal foul and team foul shall be assessed and one free throw attempt shall be awarded. The free throw may be attempted by any player in the game at the time the personal foul was committed. If the foul occurs when the ball is inbounds, the offended team shall be awarded the ball at the nearest point where play was interrupted but no nearer to the baseline than the free-throw line extended."
This is the second time in less than a week that the "Hack-a-Dwight" strategy has made headlines. Last Thursday, Howard ran away from multiple Lakers defenders as if he was playing a game of tag as they attempted to intentionally foul him (before the two-minute mark).
Howard, a career 57.6 percent foul shooter, entered Thursday's game shooting just 47.9 percent this season. However, he went 5-for-8 from the line against New York.
Houston improved to 6-4 with the win. Harden led the way with 36 points (on 9-for-17 shooting) and nine rebounds. Howard added seven points (on 1-for-5 shooting), 15 rebounds and four blocks. Anthony scored a game-high 45 points (on 17-for-30 shooting) and added 10 rebounds and four assists. Bargnani tallied 24 points (on 9-for-12 shooting) and four rebounds in a losing effort. New York fell to 3-5 on the season with the loss.