Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
Wizards overpower Rockets in OT, 135-131
The Wizards have been finding their way on their home floor of late, and Monday night added another positive performance in D.C. It took an overtime period, but Washington held off a red-hot James Harden and co. with another stellar night from its All-Star backcourt in a 135-131 victory over the Rockets. The win marked the Wizards’ third straight at home and was their sixth victory in the past nine games.
Facing an early deficit that was as big as 17 points in the first quarter, John Wall (36 points, 11 assists) and Bradley Beal (32 points) led the charge back against a shorthanded Rockets squad that was without Chris Paul (left leg) and Gerald Green (right ankle) on the night. Dwight Howard (gluteal soreness) missed another game for Washington.
Houston’s offensive load was placed squarely on the shoulders of Harden and Eric Gordon, and the duo responded with an impressive 90 points combined (54 for Harden, 36 for Gordon). Clint Capela added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets. On both sides of the floor, the stars shined brightest.
“You watched a lot of high level players play at a high level,” said head coach Scott Brooks postgame. “Amazing players all had great games, and the role players played like stars in their roles.”
The Rockets opened the game up with a 27-10 lead, making all seven of their first 3-point attempts. Houston undoubtedly threw the first punch, but Washington found its momentum just in time to mount a 13-2 run that stopped the bleeding early. Still, it trailed by 12 after the first frame.
In the second quarter, however, the script flipped thanks to Wall and Otto Porter Jr. (14 points on the night), who combined for 21 points in the period. The Wizards went on to outscore Houston 37-23 in the second on 13-of-19 shooting from the field, hitting 10-of-11 from the free throw line. On the defensive side of the floor, Washington got six turnovers and held Houston to just 1-of-11 from the 3-point line heading into the break.
Markieff Morris has been able to create matchup problems since his move to the bench, and he did it again at a critical time Monday. Nine of his second unit-leading 22 points came in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that tied the game late in the fourth and a rebound that led to a critical Beal 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining to give the Wizards a 1-point lead. Washington needed every point, as an eventual Clint Capela dunk with 10 seconds remaining in regulation led to a trip to overtime.
“I give Markieff [Morris] a lot of credit,” said Brooks. “He’s stepped up. It’s not an easy thing to accept, but that’s what he does. He’s a team guy, he made the adjustment and he’s played well in that role. He’s playing his best basketball off the bench. He’s an important part of our team and he made a lot of big plays tonight.”
In the extra period, Wall and Beal led a surging 8-1 run out of the gate that included a pair of big jumpers from Wall and a fast break dunk from Beal as an exclamation point. From there, a pair of Wall free throws were enough to stave off a last stand from an exhausted Harden.
While the night certainly belonged to the All-Star caliber backcourts of both teams, the Wizards got exactly what they needed from their bench. In addition to Morris’ double-double, Jeff Green added 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Tomas Satoransky logged six assists in his first eight minutes on the floor and recorded a team-high +21 ratio. Morris also was +21 for the night, and all four bench players finished with positive marks in the category. An efficient game from the second unit also led to a 56.8% night from the field from Washington on the whole, its best night offensively on the season.
In a game where the final score finishes in the 130’s, noting defense as a key to a victory seems counterintuitive, but it’s exactly what helped Washington edge out a victory. It’s not easy to keep intensity up when players like Harden are hitting shots, but it eventually was the reason for the win as Houston shot just 2-of-7 (1-of-6 from 3-point range) in the overtime period. Wall noted it was all about each man taking on the personal challenge.
“Great individual defense,” said John Wall postgame. “Guys talking and helping out. Brad [Beal] did a great job with James [Harden], Jeff [Green] did a great job with being in help position, [Markieff Morris] did a great job trapping, and Otto [Porter Jr.] came up with some big steals for us.”
With a tough two-game road trip ahead in New Orleans and Philadelphia, the Wizards are approaching where they need to be from a mentality standpoint in a new structure of personnel roles. They know defense comes first no matter who’s on the floor when, and they’re seeing it pay off with wins.
“Since we’ve made the lineup change, everybody’s just accepting their role,” said Wall. “No one’s worried about who’s getting the ball, we’re just focused on the defensive end. Even in the first quarter when [the Rockets] were getting easy shots, there was never one time we talked about offense in the huddle. We were just trying to focus on defense and how we can help one another. Glad we came away with a win.”
Washington’s next opportunity will come Wednesday night as it visits the Pelicans for a rematch from last weekend. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 P.M. ET.