Rockets 114, Wizards 106 - Battle in D.C.

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Following a disappointing loss in Atlanta on Saturday, the Houston Rockets traveled to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards. In a back-and-forth game that saw 25 lead changes and huge runs from both teams, the Rockets took care of business and beat Washington 114 – 106.

Thanks to very sloppy play early on, this game looked like it was going to be another disappointment for the Rockets. James Harden, in particular, had a terrible start to the game. He forced a lot of the offense, which led to five of the team’s six turnovers in the first quarter (he also had five assists). Houston also looked like it was going to repeat it’s horrendous defensive performance from Saturday, allowing 20 points in the paint. The Wizards would control the first quarter 30-23.

The second quarter was a completely different story as the Rockets came alive defensively, anchored by excellent rim protection on the part of Clint Capela. Capela did a wonderful job altering shots at the basket and slowing down the Wizard’s dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. He also managed to get his fourth block in the second quarter, setting a new high for blocks in a game. This defense allowed the Rockets to go on a massive run (16-0 at one point) and take a nine-point lead into halftime.

At the half, the Rockets had significant contributions offensively from not only Harden (7 points, 10 assists) and Capela (12 points, 4 blocks), but also from Ryan Anderson – who chipped in 12 points of his own. For Washington, Wall and Beal were the only Wizards who could really get anything going – finishing with 10 and 13 points, respectively.

The Rockets opened the third quarter cold, failing to hit a field goal (missing their first six) until Ryan Anderson made a layup. By this point, the Rockets had already given up the lead and the game became a much closer battle than it had been in the first half.

James Harden finally found a rhythm offensively in the second half, minimizing his turnovers and pushing his field goal percentage up to 47%. He finished the game with 32 points (25 in the second half), 15 assists, and 6 rebounds; he also made all eleven of his free throw attempts. Head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system is tailor-made for Harden, as evidenced by his off-the-charts numbers this year. In fact, Harden recorded his fourth straight game with at least 30 points and 15 assists, making him the first Rocket to do this since Steve Francis in the early 2000’s and the first player in the entire NBA since a guy by the name of Michael Jordan in 1988-1989.

The end of the game was kind of a mess for the Rockets. After they managed to build a sizeable lead that had potential to put the Wizards away, the offense stagnated and the Rockets weren’t able to get any player or ball movement going. In addition, two turnovers in the last minute nearly spelled disaster for Houston. Thankfully, Washington couldn’t capitalize and Harden made several free throws to put this one away.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Monday’s game ball goes to Ryan Anderson.

Despite James Harden putting up phenomenal numbers (again), the Rockets are going to need the rest of their players to step up big this season. Ryan Anderson was brought to Houston to do one thing – sink three pointers. That’s exactly what he did against the Wizards, draining five of his eight attempts from beyond the arc (62.5%) and finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and a team-high +13.

Anderson should also be praised for his defensive effort in this game. While he’s not a very good defender and has often been a liability for the Rockets on that end of the floor, his effort was great on Monday. He stayed in front of his man and fought hard on the glass.

The Rockets are going to need Anderson’s sharp-shooting this season to alleviate some pressure from Harden, but consistent effort like he put on tonight can make the Rockets a much more dangerous team.


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