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Wizards vs. Rockets preview: James Harden and the Rockets visit Washington

Houston has had their fair share of early season struggles, but they are not a team to sleep on.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets have been an even bigger disappointment to start the season than the Wizards. After making it to the conference finals last year in a loaded Western Conference, Houston is currently stuck in the middle of the Western conference. Coach Kevin McHale was fired back in November, and J.B. Bickerstaff has taken over interim coaching duties. Houston is led in both points and assists by last year’s MVP runner-up James Harden, and are anchored in the paint by Dwight Howard.

After three games of playing tiny/micro/cuteball, the Wizards are likely to have starting center Marcin Gortat back to match up with Howard. However, it will be interesting to see if Randy Wittman deploys Jared Dudley at center again when Howard sits.

Houston will be on the second night of a back to back, after visiting Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Game Info

When and where: 7:00pm @ Verizon Center

If you're in the DMV, you can watch on CSN Washington or listen on WNEW 99.1FM. If you are in the Houston area you can watch on ROOT and listen on 790 AM. For the rest of us, the game will be streaming online on League Pass.

Injury Report

For the Wizards, Drew Gooden (calf) and Nene (calf) are listed as questionable. Alan Anderson is out.

For the Rockets, Donatas Montejunas and rookie Sam Dekker are both out. Trevor Ariza is questionable after hurting his back Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Keys to the game

Attack the basket, especially in transition

Houston is one of the worst teams in the league at allowing opponents to score off of their turnovers, and one of the worst teams at defending in transition. The Wizards, meanwhile, are one of the best teams in the league at scoring in transition (all of these things hold true even when you adjust for pace). The Wizards need to capitalize every time Houston turns the ball over, and attack relentlessly.

Run Harden and Ariza off the three point line

Yeah yeah they’re both shooting poorly from three right now. But so was Wes Matthews. Despite a poor start to the season James Harden and Trevor Ariza have been historically good three point shooters, and they’re both taking plenty per game (8.6 and 6.3, respectively) so let’s not let this turn into another "struggling wing ends shooting slump vs. Wizards" story.

As a team, the Rockets take 30.8 three point attempts per game (compared to 24.4 for the Wizards) and make 32.4 percent. In particular, if the Wizards can force Ariza to put the ball on the floor his effectiveness as an offensive player will likely go down. For Harden, the key is to make his life as difficult as possible without sending him to the free-throw line. He'll get his points either way, but the Wizards need to make sure he does so inefficiently.

All data from and current as of 12/8/15 before the Rockets vs. Nets game.