Coming into Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard had a free throw percentage of less than 50% in only 3 out of 21 playoff games. Once against Philadelphia (43%), and twice against Boston (25%, 42%). The last 10 games since his last sub-50% FT game he had connected on an even 70% of his free throws (77 for 110). If you look at his FT percentage in Game 4 it isn't glaringly bad at 44% (4 for 9). However, it was the setting for his last couple missed free throws that tells the real story of his failure.
With his team up by 3 points with less than 15 seconds left, Howard's team finally did what he has been begging them to do this whole postseason: get him the ball down low. Immediately upon receipt of the ball he was fouled hard by Kobe Bryant and sent to the line to shoot two. Eleven seconds left on the clock with his team already up by 3, all he has to do is make one free throw and the game would virtually be sealed. Instead, he clanks both of them off the back of the rim and Trevor Ariza grabs the defensive rebound followed by a quick time out. What followed was a clutch 3-pointer by Derek Fisher to send the game to overtime where the Lakers eventually crushed any last hopes of the Magic being able to get back into this series. To add insult to injury, Mickael Pietrus will likely be suspended for Game 5 after foul-punching Pau Gasol in the back as Gasol dunked during the final seconds of the game.
You may cite experience, or lack thereof, as the reason for why the Magic uber-choked down the stretch, but even their own coach Stan Van Gundy wouldn't go there (check out the video Postgame: Stan Van Gundy on NBA.com). Instead, I have two concrete reasons for why Dwight Howard and the Magic blew this game and the series.
First, Dwight Howard is not "Superman." Yeah, yeah, I know he donned a Superman cape at the Dunk contest and did some crazy dunks blah blah blah. But there is only one Superman in the NBA, and he is not wearing #12 nor is he playing for the Magic . . . well, at least not anymore. Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal is Superman. There is no other. I never saw the real Superman doing reverse layups and weak finishes at the rim like the fake Superman. You think Howard's weak breaking of the shot-clock was something to awe at? How about the multiple times that Shaq shattered the backboard on his dunks. And even though Shaq is arguable a worse free throw shooter than Howard, you know he would have at least made one of those free throws at the end to ice the game. The basketball gods are aware of this nickname stealing by D. Howard and they have made their voices heard in Game 4. Karma has prevailed.
Second, guess who EA Sports just announced earlier in the day who will be on their NBA Live 10 cover? That's right, Dwight Howard. Either we got some Lakers fans working at EA Sports or else some nerd programmers that don't know nothin' about the cover-jinx? Regardless, the jinx kicked in in record time.
Hopefully you've learned your lesson after tonight, Dwight Howard. Yes, it is unfortunate about the jinx that was set upon you just earlier today with EA Sports' announcement, but you can easily offset that jinx by admitting to something that we all know: you arenot Superman.
Should Dwight Howard abandon the "Superman" nickname?
Yes (91 votes)
No (34 votes)
125 total votes