The Wizards are not afraid to employ the hack-a-Howard strategy and put Hawks big man Dwight Howard on the free throw line, if necessary, head coach Scott Brooks admitted before Game 1 on Sunday morning.
Other teams have used it to avail, so Brooks sees no reason in playing coy.
"That definitely could be in effect, depending on the game and our foul situations. There's no secret that he shoots 50 percent from the free throw line," Brooks said. "But also we have to check the temperature because there have been some games where he's made some, or more than his average. If we get in a bad position, we would rather wrap him up and get him to the line rather than give him the open layup."
Howard is a career 56.6 free throw shooter in his career. This season he shot 53.3 percent on 5.7 attempts per game.
The tricky part for the Wizards, at least early in the series, is the absence of backup center Ian Mahinmi. Not only would Mahinmi be a good option to guard Howard, but removing him from the rotation takes a major hit to their big man depth. Simply put, they have less fouls to expend. If starter Marcin Gortat or backup Jason Smith gets in foul trouble, the Wizards could have issues.
"It's going to be important not only to stay out of foul trouble, but for them to keep Howard off the glass and away from his deep paint catches and layups and dunks," Brooks said. "Those are things that we have to do. March is going to really have to be physical against a very physical guy. Ian's strength was that, to guard big players down low. March has done a good job. He's going to have to really lock in and do his work early and not give him deep postup positions. Once his athleticism and strength puts you in a bad position, it's hard to recover from."