Inconsistency is the theme for this year’s Washington Wizards. A couple of nights after their loss to the 9-25 Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards hosted the Houston Rockets on Friday night. Everyone was wondering which Wizards team would show up, the one that beat the Celtics in Boston or the one that lost to the lowly Atlanta Hawks. It was the “good” Wizards that showed up, they beat the Rockets soundly, 121-103. Otto Porter Jr had himself a night, scoring 29 points while knocking down seven three pointers. Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre both had 21 a piece in the win. John Wall turned in his best performance of the season, but it went much deeper than the box score. John Wall set the tone defensively as he willingly embraced the challenge of guarding both Chris Paul and James Harden. That was infectious as the entire team was locked in on that end of the floor, they did a great job of corralling Harden without fouling him. James finished with 20 points and went to the line just six times.
After the game Chris Paul made a comment that the Wizards “looked like us” when addressing the media. Washington was 18 of 36 from deep and Houston was 14 of 48. The Rockets got a look at just how good the Wizards can be when they’re locked in on both ends, Wall only scored 17 points, but he controlled the tempo all game long. It was a masterful performance and he showed what he can bring on both ends of the floor as he racked up 5 steals.
Houston leads the league in three point makes and attempts, to no one’s surprise they hoisted 12 of those shots in the first quarter alone. They made it clear that they were going to try and exploit Washington’s bigs in the pick-and-roll. It worked and the Rockets got very good looks from beyond the arc, but they couldn’t capitalize. Washington was a bit late on the switches and at times got caught in-between making the decision to switch or fight through the screen. Still, the Wizards were able to find success on the offensive end with John Wall collapsing the paint and finding teammates at the rim or on the perimeter. Porter took advantage of his opportunities, knocking down four of the six shots he attempted for 11 points to lead all scorers. Otto found success beyond the arc, hitting three triples in the period.
Washington held a four point lead to start the second quarter, and the bench came in and helped stretch the lead a bit. The highlight of the quarter and possibly the half came when Tomas Satoransky came down the lane and flushed on Houston’s Zhou Qui. Jodie Meeks chipped in as well, scoring 9 points in the quarter as Washington outscored Houston 32-25. Harden finally started to get going, scoring 7 points in the period, but Houston still couldn’t find their mark from deep. Shooting just 2 for 13 in the period and just 5 of 25 at the half.
Porter led all scorers with 14, Harden was next with 12 points. Washington did a solid job defensively (although Houston missed more than a few quality looks), holding the Rockets to just 38.3% from the floor and 20% from beyond the arc.
Houston started the second half strong, but Washington refused to let the Rockets dictate the period. Beal and Wall were assertive in this period, scoring 12 and 8 respectively, missing just two shots between them. Scoring 20 of Washington’s 28 points in the quarter, but Houston still outscored Washington by 2, 30-28. Kelly Oubre hit a big three near the end of the quarter to get the building to nearly blow it’s lid.
The fourth quarter was all about Washington, a team that has struggled to put teams away didn’t have that issue on this night.
The Wizards defense was suffocating for much of the final period, Houston pulled it’s starters with roughly six minutes left. Everyone got in on the action for Washington, Oubre went nuts scoring 10 of his 21 points in the period. Porter continued his rampage offensively as well, he hit seven of Washington’s 18 three pointers. The dagger came when Wall got the ball on a fast break, pulled it back out and saw that Tarik Black was guarding him. He gave the Rockets big a series of moves before drilling a step-back triple in front of he Houston bench.
Speaking of benches, Washington got great production from theirs in the win. The Wizards bench scored 47 points, keep in mind this was without the services of Mike Scott who missed the game for personal reasons.
The challenge for these Wizards is to bring this same type of intensity and focus to their next game, Sunday when they host the Chicago Bulls. If Washington wants to reach their potential, they have to get in the habit of approaching every game the same, no matter the opponent. They’ve showed that they can play with the best of the best, it’s about consistency now.