Wizards fin­ish a come­back

Okafor, Wall both turn in dou­ble-dou­bles

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL LEE leem@wash­post.com

Washington ral­lies from 17 points down in the sec­ond quar­ter to knock off Hous­ton, 105-103.

Tongue wag­ging, smile creep­ing upon his face, Bradley Beal drib­bled away from Hous­ton Rock­ets de­fend­ers, try­ing to melt away the clock be­fore even­tu­ally draw­ing a foul. Beal has al­ready made a game-win­ning jumper at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter this sea­son, but on Satur­day against the Rock­ets, the 19-year-old rookie got to ex­pe­ri­ence the joy of a game-win­ning re­bound.

Nab­bing a carom af­ter Emeka Okafor missed a free throw, Beal later hit a free throw and se­cured a 105-103 home vic­tory for the Washington Wizards that may have been their gut­si­est of the sea­son. Beal scored 21 points as the Wizards won their sec­ond game in a row and im­proved to 11-4 against teams with win­ning records since Jan. 7 — when Beal got the pos­i­tive vibes go­ing when he hit a jumper to de­feat de­fend­ing West­ern Con­fer­ence cham­pion Ok­la­homa City.

The Wizards (17-37) have also added John Wall since then, and Wall had his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive dou­ble-dou­ble with 12 points and 11 as­sists. Okafor added his 14th dou­ble-dou­ble with 17 points and 11 re­bounds as the Wizards with­stood a three-point bar­rage and a 17-point first half defict. Re­serve for­ward Trevor Ariza came off the bench to con­trib­ute 18 points and helped slow down all-star guard James Har­den, who led all scor­ers with 27 points. For­ward Chan­dler Par­sons added 24 for the Rock­ets (31-27), who made 19 three-point­ers on a sea­son-high 46 at­tempts. Hous­ton had won its pre­vi­ous two games against Ok­la­homa City and Brook­lyn, but teams with rel­a­tive success have strug­gled of late, with the Den­ver Nuggets los­ing in Washington the night be­fore.

The Rock­ets rou­tinely en­gage in shootouts, with an of­fense geared around swing­ing the ball, mak­ing the ex­tra pass and set­ting up wide open threes. When that doesn’t work, they let Har­den go to work and at­tack the bas­ket with long strides, herky-jerky drib­bling and strong fin­ishes at the bas­ket. Ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple league sources, the Wizards could’ve ob­tained Har­den from Ok­la­homa City in ex­change for Beal and Chris Sin­gle­ton last sum­mer but elected to stand pat in­stead.

Har­den sized up Beal, then buried a three-pointer to give the Rock­ets a 48-31 lead with 5 min­utes 46 sec­onds left in the sec­ond quar­ter, but the Wizards re­sponded by scor­ing the next nine points. Wall fed Ariza for a three-pointer, then blocked Rock­ets cen­ter Omer Asik’s shot and raced up the floor to find Martell Web­ster trail­ing for a dunk.

Rock­ets Coach Kevin McHale called timeout and his team re­sponded by get­ting the ball to Par­sons, who buried his fifth three­p­ointer of the first half. En­ter­ing the game, the most three-point­ers that the Wizards had al­lowed this sea­son was 13 on Nov. 26 dur­ing a 26-point home loss against San An­to­nio. The Rock­ets matched that to­tal be­fore the end of the first half, as re­serve guard Pa­trick Bev­erly hit a three-pointer from the right cor­ner to give his team a 55-46 lead. Har­den then stole a pass from Wall and sprinted up the court for a dunk to send his team into the locker room up by 11.

The Wizards had trou­ble keep­ing up with Par­sons, who present- ed prob­lems on the de­fen­sive end by forc­ing Nene to step out and guard him. Par­sons led all scor­ers with 19 points at half­time and Coach Randy Wittman de­cided to make a switch at half­time, by in­sert­ing Sin­gle­ton into the start­ing lineup over Okafor to start the third quar­ter.

The Rock­ets matched the NBA record for three-point­ers when they made 23 against Golden State ear­lier this sea­son and were on pace to set a new mark when they had 14 one minute into the third quar­ter. They led 66-52 when Har­den made two free throws, but Beal got the Wizards started on a 19-5 run when he drove and made a re­verse layup that went high above the rim be­fore drip­ping.

Ariza en­tered the game shortly there­after and com­pletely turned the game around with his hus­tle and re­lent­less de­fense on Har­den. He scored seven points dur­ing the run, steal­ing the ball from Asik to get a layup and then find­ing Okafor for a layup that tied the score at 71.

Wall gave the Wizards their first lead of the half with a 19-foot jumper. Beal put them ahead, 7776, but the Rock­ets scored the fi­nal seven points of the third pe­riod to en­ter the fourth quar­ter with an 83-77 lead.

The Wizards tied it at 88 be­fore the Rock­ets hit back-to-back three-point­ers, but the game re­mained tight the rest of the way. Af­ter Okafor made a hook shot to give the Wizards a 99-96 lead, Har­den an­swered with a three­p­ointer.

Wall made two free throws to put the Wizards up 103-101, but af­ter Har­den missed a layup, Wall drib­bled down the clock, lost his drib­ble and re­cov­ered, but drew a shot clock vi­o­la­tion. Har­den then an­swered with a quick layup to tie the score at 103.

The Wizards worked the ball in­side to Okafor, who drew a foul on Asik. Okafor made the first and missed the sec­ond, but Beal swooped in to save the day.


Bradley Beal (21 points), seek­ing an open­ing around Hous­ton de­fender Omer Asik. sealed Washington’s win with a late re­bound.

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