As if a game involving a team riding an eight-game losing streak and trailing by 20 points couldn’t have gotten any uglier, the Celtics  began fouling Dwight Howard , over and over, midway through the fourth quarter.
Once Rockets coach Kevin McHale  inserted his center into the final frame against his former team, the Celtics  hacked a Howard seven times in 3:27, resulting in 14 mostly terrible free throw attempts for the viewing pleasure of the fans who remained until the bitter end. It wasn’t pretty, and that’s a problem for the NBA, because it worked.
“It freezes everybody,” Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin  explained after his team’s 104-92 victory at the Garden. “We just don’t get rhythm. We don’t play offense for a while. We’re just watching. We get cold, and then there’s no flow. At that point, their goal is to freeze us, so they are accomplishing that.”
As Howard missed 8-of-14 from the line, the C’s slashed a 16-point deficit to seven and could’ve sliced it further had they not turned the ball over three times down the stretch. These are the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics , after all. Then, the two-minute mark hit, the C’s could no longer foul Howard off the ball and had to play real defense, which promptly resulted in a pair of Houston layups that mercifully brought their ninth straight loss to an end.
“I would probably support a change in the rule that would call it intentional or call it like it would be called int he last two minutes,” admitted Stevens. “But because it’s a rule and usually if a guy’s making one out of two, it makes you think twice. To his credit, he made one almost every time up to the foul line. But we were scoring, and so we were getting a plus-one in about 10 or 15 seconds off the clock for the better part of three or four possessions. And then we went dry, and that’s when the two-minute mark hit anyways and we really couldn’t do it anymore.”
To paraphrase: The Celtics , like most teams, Hack-a-Howard because they can, even if they don’t like it. And why should they? It’s ugly and cheap, like an inflatable doll, and nobody wants to see that. Especially fans.
So, what should the NBA do about it? Take a cue perhaps from Shaquille O’Neal  himself, who once said  of the Hack-a-Shaq technique, “The only thing I call cowardly is when you’re up by 10 and do it. That’s a coward move.” Adam Silver could make it his first order of business upon taking over for David Stern  as commissioner: Off-the-ball whistles become intentional when a team is leading by 10 points. That way ugly basketball can’t get any uglier.