Wizards finish a comeback
Okafor, Wall both turn in double-doubles
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.