Wait, did that headline have a '?' at the end? Because it shouldn't. No, the Washington Wizards didn't play their best game of the season last night against the Houston Rockets, but for my money it was their best victory. When else this year have the Wiz battled back to win against a good team after looking so thoroughly defeated halfway through the game? Washington's wins this season have pretty much been of the "build a big lead and hold on for dear life" variety or your more-standard back-and-forth, win-at-the-end affair.
Anyway, enough of my jibber jabber, let's get on to today's roundup. Be sure to also check out our game StoryStream as well as postgame interviews with Randy Wittman, Bradley Beal, John Wall, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza over at Monumental Network.
Tongue wagging, smile creeping upon his face, Bradley Beal dribbled away from Houston Rockets defenders, trying to melt away the clock before eventually drawing a foul. Beal has already made a game-winning jumper at Verizon Center this season, but on Saturday against the Rockets, the 19-year-old rookie got to experience the joy of a game-winning rebound.
Nabbing a carom after Emeka Okafor missed a free throw, Beal later hit a free throw and secured a 105-103 victory for the Washington Wizards that may have been the gutsiest of the season. Beal scored 21 points as the Wizards won their second game in a row and improved to 11-4 against teams with winning records since Jan. 7 - when Beal got the positive vibes going when he hit a jumper to defeat defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City.
After enduring a relentless stream of 3-pointers that forced them to abandon playing two big men at the same time early and often in the second half, Wizards coach Randy Wittman used both Emeka Okafor and Nene to unbalance the Rockets and got what is becoming an all too familiar clutch play from Bradley Beal to eke out a 105-103 triumph before a sold-out Verizon Center.
The Rockets dominated early with an impressive 3-point shooting display and finished with more attempts than any NBA team this season. The Wizards countered by going big and going inside and it paid off when the former league laughingstock took down another winning team.
Even though Wall's return has been the focal point for much of the season, Bradley Beal might be the brightest star on the team right now. Saturday night he showed why too with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Even though he is just a rookie, Beal is showing a high-rate of improvement this year with his best games coming when Wall gives him the ball
As I tweeted during the game, Bradley is quickly becoming THAT DUDE. At the beginning of the season, he struggled with his shot. His game looked forced. These days it's smooth, like Gary Coleman. Not only was his stat line filled with 21 pts, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, it was done so efficiently and in the flow of the game. His 21 points came on 7-15 shooting. He is becoming the anti-Steez -- a high volume scorer rather than a high volume shooter. Speaking of high volume scorers...
"I went big with 21 seconds at the end of the game, and I said whoever has the smallest defender on them that's who I want the ball to go to, said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. "I'm a firm believer in going at mismatches, and the flow of the game. I felt Emeka Okafor played outstanding, and he was doing a great job when he got the ball down there. I coach by feel; I don't have a set play we will go to every time. Houston stayed small all game long and I just decided to go big and it worked out well."
"We're versatile. The five of us on the court, everybody can score, from every single position and we all have confidence in each other and know when we can exploit matchups. That just shows confidence," Okafor said. "This team is pretty unique where you legitimately have guys at every position who can put the ball in the bucket. So at the end of the game Coach drew up a play and said hey, ‘Whoever the mismatch is on is who we're going to.' It wasn't for me or Nene, it's whoever Delfino was guarding."
Yes, I admit to looking at the standings and noticing immediately that there are now nine games between the Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks, who also lost tonight. There are 28 games remaining. Let's not get crazy, but then, why do I keep looking at the standings? It can't be any crazier than going 11-4 against teams with winning records and 2-5 against losing squads.
What a game. The Washington Wizards beat their second playoff team on a back to back, this time beating the Houston Rockets 105 to 103. After the first half, the Wizards looked out of sorts, and at least some people thought that the game was going to get out of hand fast. But the Wizards turned it around big time, outscoring the Rockets by 5 in the third quarter and by 8 in the fourth. And Bradley Beal had the DAGGER rebound off an Okafor missed free throw to seal the game.
The Wizards shot 51.3% from the field, marking the sixth time the Wizards have shot 50% or better and they are undefeated in such games. The Wizards also had 31 assists, one off of their season high. Bradley Beal led five Wizards in double figures with 21 points on 7/15 shooting. Emeka Okafor had 17 points and 11 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the year and Wall also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 assists. Ariza had 18 points and Webster had 12 as the other Wizards in double figures.
The Rockets were taking all those 3s - and making more than their share - because they were not getting much of anything else going. They did circle the 3-point arc as usual, and they did move the ball to open shots. But as they started heading toward the record again, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said, the Rockets got "3-happy.
"It's one thing to lose to the Washington Wizards. They are a team who have been extremely well since the return of John Wall well since the return of John Wall, having defeated the Clippers, Knicks, and Nuggets recently before tonight's game. The Rockets were on the second part of a back-to-back, were still shorthanded thanks to the fact that the Robinson trade still isn't officially completed as the Kings delay with the physicals of Patterson and company for whatever reason, and lost Greg Smith for the fourth quarter with a knee injury that appeared quite serious when it happened as he had to be helped off the court (though according to Jonathon Feign, it appears to be fine and Smith will not miss any games).
It's another thing to lose to Trevor Ariza.
Trevor Ariza played his one good offensive game of the year. Apparently covering and driving on an exhausted-looking James Harden is well within Ariza's capabilities. His defense often bothered Harden, and Ariza (one of the least offensively savvy players I've ever seen) shot 8-12. Let me make a small internet wager for pride with anyone interested. Ariza will not shoot 75% with 10+ shots again this season. In fact, I'm willing to extend that bet to the remainder of his career.