Fixing the foul out

Three proposals to keep the best players in the game

Updated: April 24, 2014, 4:47 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

Dwight HowardAndrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsThe league later admitted Dwight Howard's sixth foul in Game 1 shouldn't have been called.

When James Harden missed the shot at the buzzer that would have tied Game 1 of the Houston Rockets' playoff series with the Portland Trail Blazers and forced a second overtime period, someone was missing. A lot of someones, actually.

Teammate Dwight Howard was on the sideline watching, as were Blazers starters LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez. Of the four All-Stars in the game, just Harden and Damian Lillard remained for the finish.

The culprit was fouls. Aldridge, Howard and Lopez all picked up their sixth during the extra session, sending them to the bench. One of the most thrilling games of the playoffs' first weekend was decided in part by who wasn't available -- in Howard's case, because of a sixth foul the league admitted a day later shouldn't have been called at all.

The spirit of HoopIdea is making the NBA a better game. There's no easier way to do that than to ensure that the best players are actually in the game rather than on the bench. Figuring out how is the tricky part.