CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Dwight Howard is doing anything he can to eliminate the pressure he feels shooting free throws — even if that means thinking about the Unabomber.
Howard said he let his mind wander Monday night to a recent show he’s been watching on Netflix about the hunt for the Unabomber. The big man went 9 of 14 at the foul line and finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds in the Charlotte Hornets’ 118-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I guess it works,” Howard said. “I just stay away from my own brain.”
Free throw shooting has been an adventure for Howard this season. He was making only 40.3 percent coming into the game, but shot 6 of 10 in the fourth quarter when the Timberwolves were intentionally fouling him in an attempt to erase a double-digit deficit.
Howard said he shoots about 200 foul shots every day and swears he makes more than 90 percent of them on a consistent basis in practice.
But he added that he tends to freeze up during games — even after 13 seasons in the NBA — and worries about being taken out down the stretch because of his failure to convert them.
He said now he is taking a “who cares” approach.
“That’s what I have been focusing on is not being so tense at the line,” Howard said. “I’m so passionate in the game that when I step up to the line my emotions are still running so high that I don’t know how to bring my shoulders down. … I have to deflate my shoulders and make my shots.”
Howard, acquired in an offseason trade from Atlanta, was 8 for 10 from the field and added four blocks. It was his 49th 20-20 game, the most among active NBA players.
He outplayed Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds as Minnesota lost on back-to-back nights.
“He controlled the paint at both ends of the floor, so he was a force in the paint on offense and his pick-and-roll defense,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “His team defense was terrific. He controlled the game.”
Said Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson: “We tried to get a body on him but he was real active tonight. We tried to match it, but their whole group collectively did well moving the ball and had us strung out.”
Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins got a technical foul after disputing a charge call against him in the third quarter.
Hornets: Came in having committed the fewest turnovers in the league but gave the ball away 11 times in the first half. … Howard was charged with a flagrant foul when he threw a high elbow toward the upper body of Towns in the third quarter.
KAMINSKY STEPS UP
Charlotte forward Frank Kaminsky provided a huge spark off the bench, scoring nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. He shot 9 of 15 overall, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
The Hornets led by four entering the fourth before Kaminsky took over and helped build a double-digit advantage with a pair of 3-pointers.
“The ball was going in,” Kaminsky said. “Just wanted to attack. We’ve had some lulls in energy in the second half so I just want to come out and play with some heart.”
BALL WON’T FALL
The Timberwolves shot 6 of 27 from 3-point range, including 1 of 14 in the first half.
Jamal Crawford led Minnesota with 19 points, and Jeff Teague added 18. Wiggins struggled from the field, going 5 of 14 and finishing with 11 points.
Playing its third game in four nights might have contributed to Minnesota’s poor shooting.
“You don’t ever want to make excuses and obviously we have work to do and we’re still a work in progress,” Crawford said. “We’re a long way from being where we will be, but I think that’s a good thing. We have something to work toward.”
ZELLER LAUNCHES ONE
Cody Zeller capped the scoring with a 3-pointer from the top of the key — his first attempt of the season.
“I think I’m leading the league in 3-point percentage,” Zeller joked.
Timberwolves: Host the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
Hornets: Host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
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