If each new futile performance makes you feel like the Wizards are being punished by some higher power, know that you’re not alone. While watching the Wizards shoot over 55 percent from the field against Houston and yet still trail by double digits for the entire second half, punishment was the first thing that came to my mind.
Like Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the hill over and over just to see it come crashing back down to the base, so too did the Wizards score again and again on the Rockets’ defense only to see them splash three-pointer after three-pointer in return. In fact, Houston hit 26 threes on the night, setting a new NBA record for most threes in a game en route to a 136-118 win on Wednesday night.
Of course, there is no vengeful god punishing the Wizards for their sins — they do it all on their own. John Wall continues to offer what could charitably be described as “selective effort” on the defensive end. Markieff Morris gives even less effort than that. And their apathy seems to ooze through the rest of the team, manifesting itself either in frustration or simply more apathy.
wtf is this defense Markieff?! Bradley Beal pissed after. pic.twitter.com/tdFGJY7H92— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) December 20, 2018
None of this is new information for Wizards fans, but it was as evident as ever against Houston, who scored more than 30 points in each of the four quarters. Good offense usually beats good defense in the NBA, but a team that plays none of the latter simply doesn’t have a chance.
For as poorly as the game ended, the Wizards got off to a much better start than their Tuesday night game against Atlanta, in which they failed to score for nearly five minutes as the Hawks opened up a big early lead. Instead, Washington jumped out to a 12-6 lead in Houston behind strong play from Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant.
Houston eventually pulled back and earned its first lead on a James Harden step-back three that made the score 20-18 with four minutes left in the first quarter. Houston outscored the Wizards 11-4 to end the first quarter, ultimately leading 34-28 at the end of one.
Houston started the second quarter hot from three, opening up a double-digit lead for the first time of the night. Weirdly, despite Bryant playing so well in the first quarter, Scott Brooks rested the Wizards’ only real big man for the entire second quarter. With Morris in at center in Bryant’s stead, the Rockets easily gashed the Wizards over and over on their way to a 70-58 halftime lead.
The third quarter began with more of the same — Houston created open three-pointers with ease and rarely if ever missed them. The lead ballooned as high as 18 midway through the third, and the Wizards only gained one point on the Rockets despite scoring 31 in the period. In the fourth, the dam finally broke and Washington got blown out. With under a minute remaining, and the entire Houston crowd chanting “THREE” in unison, Michael Carter-Williams (of all people!) hit the long-range shot that ultimately set the NBA record.
Brad Beal stays en fuego
On a night when the Rockets set an all-time NBA record, the stat I actually found most telling of the Wizards’ struggles is this: At the end of the first half, Bradley Beal had played 20-of-24 minutes with a plus-minus of zero — yet the Wizards trailed by 12.
In other words, the Wizards played the Rockets evenly with Beal on the floor and lost the mere four minutes in which he sat by double digits. Most of those minutes came at the start of the second quarter when Scott Brooks’ infamous all-bench line-up botched what had been a fairly decent opening to the game.
It’s no surprise the Wizards struggled without Beal on the floor. Though his second half was relatively quiet, Beal was the team’s only offense for most of the first two periods. He shot eight-of-11 in the first half for 18 points and dished out six assists to boot. He extended his streak of consecutive games with 20 or more points to a league-leading tenth game in a row.
Activity is more than welcome
It’s no coincidence that Sam Dekker and Thomas Bryant, two of the Wizards’ hardest-hustling players, are perhaps the most fun to watch on the team right now. Dekker finished the game with 15 points on seven-of-eight shooting, while Bryant went five-of-six from the field for 12 of his own.
This performance is why you need to beat the Hawks on the first half of the back-to-back.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) December 20, 2018
Next up: The Wizards (12-20) will roll the boulder back up the hill once more against the Phoenix Suns (8-24) on Saturday.