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Wizards claw their way to 135-131 win over Rockets

Harden had 54, but the Wizards took the win.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, the Wizards got themselves punched in the mouth to start a game. And once again, just as they did against the Clippers, they responded. Washington clawed themselves back from a 17 point first quarter deficit where the Rockets hit their first six threes to earn a 135-131 over James Harden and the Rockets.

This one was a barnburner essentially all the way though. Harden was very clearly the best player on the floor tonight, dropping 54 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds despite the loss. Eric Gordon followed up with 36 points and eight makes from deep despite coming into D.C. on a horrendous cold streak.

But John Wall and Bradley Beal put up numbers themselves. Wall finished with 36 points, 11 assists and two blocks. Beal poured in 32 points and four assists to go along with four made threes. Markieff Morris made his mark off the bench once again with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Though the numbers offensively are eye popping, it was really the defensive effort from the Wizards tonight that made the difference late. Even when they weren’t hitting shots, Otto Porter rotated hard over into a passing lane to create a turnover on Harden. Wall took a charge. Beal forced him into a tough look from deep. They played hard and won the game. If they started games like this, this one may not have even been a contest.

Defense, defense, defense

The Wizards are getting by right now, but until they defend at a semi-competent level we can’t buy any stock on this team. The Rockets pulled away early simply because the Wizards were getting lost in the shuffle on defense.

Losing folks in transition, falling asleep when Harden has the ball, fouling three point shooters, darting into a screen over and over without being able to contest Gordon. Their effort is there, but it comes when it’s far too late. Luckily for the Wizards, it didn’t bite them tonight. But Eric Gordon shouldn’t be dropping 36 on anyone’s head — period.

John Wall byke?

Wall has put together a solid season after a slow start, but he hasn’t reached the same level he was at when he earned himself a super max extension. Tonight? He was there. Going blow for blow with Harden, stepping up to him defensively on switches and making pinpoint passes as soon as guys broke open.

Offense becomes stagnant when you have ball stoppers — things are naturally less fluid. Wall is a ball holder. He always has been. But when he’s playing like this? Man, you let him go. Guys will get involved, but tonight it was his show. The problem is that this isn’t always the Wall that shows up. If the Wizards get this going forward? Man.

Keep that same energy on the road

The Wizards have only won two games on the road this season while being a solid team at home. They’ve got to keep this same momentum going on the road.

After early struggles, they’ve won six of their last nine games. Four of their next five games are on the road with the lone home game coming against the Nets. If this team is going to get back on track, they’ll do it in this next stretch and they’ll do it on the road. Otherwise, they’ll be right back where we started this season at the bottom of the conference.