What. A. Game.
The Wizards won 123-122 on the road Saturday against the Rockets on the road Saturday. Eight Washington players scored in double figures, led by John Wall who scored 19 points, dished 13 assists, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked two shots. The Rockets were led by James Harden who scored 40 points on 12-of-20 shooting and also dished 11 assists.
There were 14 lead changes, 16 ties, and neither the Wizards or Rockets were able to lead be more than six points in the game. The game was exciting for any fan, start to finish. We even got to see a bit of drama on the court as Dwight Howard and Nene played each other very physically. Ultimately, both were ejected in the fourth quarter before things could get out of hand.
But that's not all of the storylines behind this contest.
Earlier Saturday morning, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman learned that his older brother Rick passed away . However, he continued to coach the team, who played some of their most inspired basketball of the season.
So, what were the keys to Washington winning this game? Let's look at a few.
The Wizards are finally NOT in Snowday mode anymore
Last Monday, I wrote up the Wizards' preview against the Celtics that the #WizKiller was themselves in snowday mode. As you are aware, the Washington area received two or more feet (61 or more centimeters) of snow last weekend.
They played particularly sluggish basketball in the Celtics game which culminated in a blowout loss and did the same the following night to the Raptors on the road. Things looked a little better on Thursday against the Nuggets at home, but again, they still weren't quite where they needed to be.
It took longer than we would have liked, but thankfully, the Wizards are out of the snowday sluggishness that has affected many workers and school students throughout the region.
Persistence paid off at the three-point line
The Wizards shot 2 of 12 from the three-point line in the first quarter, and actually started 1 of 11 in the game. However, the shots they took were good looks. Many teams may have been discouraged and started focusing on taking more close-range shots afterwards, but Washington still took 19 more threes for the rest of the game.
In the second half, they made 8 of 16 threes and made 11 of 32 for the entire game. The Rockets did make 17 of 35 threes themselves, but Washington did just enough on their end to get the victory there.
The Wizards stayed focused despite chippiness
The Wizards' posts -- most notably Nene -- were playing a very physical game against Rockets center Dwight Howard. Both were ejected after getting tangled in the fourth quarter. At the time, it would be quite easy for both teams to get into a shoving match, but fortunately, that didn't happen.
The Wizards were more aggressive to the free throw line in the second half
In the first half of the game, Washington attempted made just 5 of 7 free-throw attempts while the Rockets made 11 of 18. The Wizards also only made four of those shots. In the second half, the Wizards made 18-of-23 free throws while the Rockets made 12-of-15. The number of free throw shots Washington made and attempted in the second half also could have very well been the difference between a win and a mere moral victory.
The Wizards travel to Oklahoma City on Monday to play the Thunder, and their superstar duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Washington is going to need another effort like tonight in order to pull off a big win in OKC.