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Wizards vs Rockets preview: Martell Webster returns as Wizards start rough road swing

Martell Webster is slated to be active for the first time this season as the Wizards prepare for the first game of a challenging five game road trip against some of the Western Conference's finest.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards need to be ready to make a statement Monday night.

Seeking a four game road winning streak, the Wizards head to Houston tonight to face the Rockets, which has only lost one game to Eastern Conference opponents. The Wiz on the other hand, are 6-2 against Western Conference teams.

"We get a chance to play against some of the upper echelon Western Conference teams," Paul Pierce said after Saturday's win against the Boston Celtics. "It will be a great measuring stick of where we are. We know we're one of the upper-echelon teams in the East."

Both teams are 21-8 and ready to prove they are contenders, not pretenders.

Most importantly, if the Wizards win, they ill match their best start through 30 games in franchise history. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Where and when? Unless you drove out to Texas, DMV fans can't attend this game in person. Catch it at 8 p.m. (EST) from the Toyota Center on CSN Plus Washington or Root Sports in Houston.

Who's out? Martell Webster is ... ACTIVE (!!!!!) for the Wizards tonight. Patrick Beverly, James Harden and Dwight Howard are listed as day to day, but all played in the Rockets' Sunday night loss at the San Antonio Spurs. (Speaking of which, the game was a hard fought one, and the three of them played 106 minutes combined.)

Are they good? Sure are. They rank 17th in the NBA in points per game (100.9), 8th in rebounds per game (44.8) and 5th in points allowed (97.3). Not to mention, James Harden, is playing lights out this year - he leads the team in points per game (27.2), assists (7.0) and steals (1.9) and is in serious talks for being MVP. The Rockets are also 5-2 in the second half of back to back games - beware, Wizards!

What about Trevor Ariza? Ariza spent two years in Washington before being acquired by Houston in July. The Wizards then picked up Paul Pierce to replace him. Both teams have benefited in different ways. With Ariza on the court, the Houston offense is six points better per 100 possessions than when he is on the bench. Pierce has helped the Wizards lead the league three point shooting percentage (39%) while being tied for 3rd in field goal percentage 47.2%) and maintaining one of the stronger defenses in the NBA.

Who wins? Man, the Rockets are probably pretty angry they lost a close one to the Spurs last night. But for as much as anger turns into good play, it can also turn into tiredness. Expect the Wizards to come out fresh and take advantage of Harden's sloppy defense. It'll be a battle of the big men inside, too, with Marcin Gortat and Nene facing of against Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.

But look for John Wall to continue his tear (he's third in the league with 10.3 assists per game and leads the league in 20 point/10 assist games) and the Wiz will win by six, halting the Rockets' five-game home winning streak against them.