That was... something else. From rain delays to Kevin Seraphin leading a furious comeback, the Wizards nearly pulled off a miracle, only to falter late in a crushing 114-107 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Last night I complained over the lack of quality wins against opponents over .500. Tonight, it's really hard to be so down on the Wizards after fighting back from a 25 point deficit, to somehow taking a 5 point lead at one point late in the fourth quarter. Just when you thought you've seen everything in the NBA, a rain delay (yes, you read that right) put things to a halt twice for a total of over 50 minutes. Everything early on looked the part of last night's disastrous loss to the Pacers: a trainwreck of an offense, a helpless defense, and players not putting in the effort you'd like to see.
It was all Dwight Howard in the first quarter. Wizards chose not to double him, allowing Gortat , and eventually Nene, to take turns defending his post-ups, which couldn't have gone any better for Houston. Dwight's entire repertoire was on display -- drop steps to the middle, hook shots over both shoulders, and even an up and under on Nene -- and the Wizards had no answer for him. But it was a calculated decision by Randy Wittman, and later on proved to be a worthwhile one as Houston's shooters punished Wizards wings for digging too far down in the lane.
It was all knotted up at 29 a piece to start the second quarter before a 35-minute delay took place due to water dripping from the roof of the Verizon Center. There were trash cans and towels placed on the court to catch the water as it fell, Dwight Howard shooting hoops with G-Wiz and an eight year old, and Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier trying their best to prevent their audience from turning off their TV's.
Then play resumed, and the Rockets went on a 34-17 run to end the half. They shot over 57% from the field following the delay, and completely took advantage of Washington failing to get back on defense. Wizards offense returned to last night's form in Indiana, taking far too many long jumpers and failing to get out on the break.
A second delay prolonged halftime another 15 minutes or so. The Rockets continued to build on their lead through the third quarter -- getting it up to 25 points at one point -- before the Wizards rode the momentum of an 8-0 run to end the third quarter. And believe it or not, their furious comeback in the fourth was led by Kevin Seraphin on both ends of the floor. He battled down low against Dwight Howard, contested shots at the rim by using his massive frame, and sunk big shot after big shot.
Then, after Seraphin contested yet another shot at the rim, Ariza grabbed the defensive rebound, quickly got it to Wall who raced down the floor, jumped, and threw a beautiful wrap-around pass to Nene under the basket for the And-1. This was the theme for the Wizards the entire quarter: beat Houston, and more importantly Dwight Howard down the floor in order to get easy shots at the rim. They started the quarter outscoring Houston 25-3, but Houston finally showed some fight of their own, responding with an 8-0 run, no points more important than a Harden And-1 coming off a pull-up jumper right over Bradley Beal to take a three point lead.
As good as the offense was during the comeback, the minutes on Nene and Seraphin -- who simply isn't accustomed to playing such long stretches -- put a damper on their late-game execution. It reverted to inefficient jumpers along the perimeter and that was just enough for Houston to cement their victory.
The Wizards are now 1-13 against opponents over .500.
Here are my game notes:
- That set to get Wall an open three off a flare screen around the 7 minute mark of the first quarter was something else. Beal threw a perfect pass over the top of the defense, and Wall hit nothing but net. Have to wonder if that's a new wrinkle in the offense, or just a freak play, but regardless, the Wizards should look into getting Wall in more spot-up situations.
- Biggest difference between Washington's' three point shooters and Houstons is that the latter are always ready to catch and shoot. Wall drove into the teeth of the defense in the second quarter, sucked in Ariza's man, and timed his pass perfectly. The problem is, Ariza has too much confidence in his floor game, and took an unnecessary shot-fake, which the defender didn't bite on, and had nowhere to go. With the clock winding down, he was forced to hoist up an awkward shot.
- Wizards got killed all night long off Jeremy Lin's dribble penetration. He had just 6 assists, but constantly forced the defense into scramble situations, which led to several hockey assists.
- Beginning to think there's just no explanation for Kevin Seraphin's peaks and valleys. His shot selection even tonight was questionable, and we've been fooled before. But it's so hard not to be impressed by his effort tonight. Some of the shots he contested at the rim were simply a matter of him taking advantage of his frame, and his defense on Howard post-ups were about as good as it gets.
- Beal really messed up the flow of the game late. Following a timeout he threw up a contested long-two, fouled James Harden on a jumpshot which he made, then tried taking it himself all the way to basket only to get blocked by Terrance Jones. Not a good night for him.
- Hard to really fault the offense for going to a Seraphin isolation in the post with about 2 minutes to go. It's the classic hot-hand theory.