Preview: Wizards continue road trip Tuesday in Houston
The Wizards continue their three-game road trip on Tuesday, taking on the Rockets at 8:00 P.M. in Houston. Washington, playing in its second game since returning from a nearly two-week hiatus, looks to bounce back from a loss to San Antonio while Houston is coming off an impressive win over Dallas.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks announced pregame that Raul Neto, who missed Sunday’s game due to left groin tightness, will play. Anthony Gill, who signed with Washington this offseason, will make the first start of his NBA career.
Toyota Center | 8:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Jerome Robinson, F – Isaac Bonga, C – Robin Lopez
Rockets: G – John Wall, G – Victor Oladipo, F – Jae'Sean Tate, F – P.J. Tucker, C – DeMarcus Cousins
Wizards: Deni Avdija (health and safety protocols – out), Davis Bertans (health and safety protocols – out), Troy Brown Jr. (health and safety protocols – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Rui Hachimura (health and safety protocols – out), Raul Neto (left groin tightness – available), Ish Smith (health and safety protocols – out), Moe Wagner (health and safety protocols – out)
Rockets: Dante Exum (right calf strain – out), Christian Wood (right ankle sprain – doubtful)
Wizards face Rockets for first time since blockbuster trade
Tuesday’s matchup will mark the first meeting between the Wizards and Rockets since the teams’ December trade that swapped All-NBA point guards Russell Westbrook and John Wall. Westbrook, who played only last season in Houston, is averaging 18.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 10.6 assists in eight games with the Wizards this season. Wall spent the first nine years of his NBA career in D.C. and ranks first in franchise history in assists (5,282) and steals (976) and fourth in points (10,879). This season, Wall is averaging 17.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
“I have a lot of respect for John,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “I’ve seen him come back through all his injuries…A lot of guys could have shut it down…this happened many times with other guys in the league, but he’s fought and he’s fought and he’s come back. I’m looking forward to seeing him like a lot of our guys and coaches are. We’ve got a lot of respect for him. He did a lot for our community. He’s going to come back and play well for Houston.”
“I’ve never played against John before – this is all new to me,” Bradley Beal said. “He’s going to be energetic. But we’re not just playing John, we’re playing the Rockets. We do have it in the back of our mind that he’s going to be in attack mode and aggressive…(Wall’s) not the only guy we have to worry about. (DeMarcus Cousins) had a great game the last game…They have pieces…It won’t be easy at all. It will be a gut punch for us. We’ve got to really bear down and be ready to go.”
Searching for secondary scoring
While Beal continues his red-hot start to the season, averaging 34.5 points per game and 41.5 in his last four, the Wizards have struggled to get consistent scoring out of the rest of the rotation. Westbrook is averaging 18.0 points per game, but saw his scoring fall off recently as he played through a quadriceps injury. The former MVP, however, has made up for any scoring struggles in other areas, leading the team in rebounds (9.5) and assists (10.6). Outside of their star guards, no active and healthy Wizards player is averaging more than Garrison Mathews’ 8.2 points per game. In their first game back after six consecutive postponements, Mathews was one of a few players to show flashes of the scoring ability the Wizards will need to keep their top-10 offense afloat. Jerome Robinson was assertive, scoring eight points in the first quarter on his way to 16 overall. Alex Len scored 11 in his team debut. Brooks has been preaching that the adversity the Wizards are facing is a great opportunity for younger or less experienced players to step up and claim a larger role with the team. Washington will need someone to do just that in the coming games as the team continues to wait for healthy reinforcements.
Houston, like Washington, working through new rotations
The Rockets are dealing with some of the same rotational unfamiliarity as the Wizards this week. Christian Wood, who has been a breakout star for Houston this season, is listed as doubtful with a right ankle sprain and will likely miss his third consecutive game. Wood is averaging 23.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season. In the backcourt, Wall started in the Rockets’ Friday night matchup with the Mavericks after missing five games with left knee soreness. He totaled seven points and eight assists in 21 minutes of action. Wall has played in eight games this season, but has yet to suit up alongside newly acquired guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo has played three games with his new team, but rested in Wall’s return on Friday. Oladipo was dealt to Houston in the four-team trade that sent James Harden from the Rockets to the Nets. While the Wizards’ depth has taken a hit in recent weeks, the Rockets’ rotational inconsistency starts with some of their most important contributors. The teams’ abilities to address those challenges on the fly will go a long way in determining who comes out on top Tuesday night.