Cleared for Takeoff (Rockets-Wizards Recap)

Photo by Debby Wong


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


WASHINGTON — It was no surprise that one team inside of Capital One Arena on Friday night nailed three-pointer after three-pointer, making long-range attempts feel like layups as they raced to another convincing victory.

The surprise lies with the team who engineered the long-range barrage, as the Washington Wizards tied a franchise-record 18 three-pointers on their way to a 121-103 victory over the suddenly slumping Houston Rockets, who have now lost five games in a row. After blowing a 26-point lead in Boston last night, the Rockets were done in by the long-ball prowess of the Wizards, who made double the number of threes than their season average of 9.4 makes from beyond the arc.

As long as [the three-pointers] are wide open, we should shoot them,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.

And shoot them they did. Otto Porter Jr. led the parade with 26 points, including hitting 7-of-11 from three. Bradley Beal and reserve Kelly Oubre Jr. each scored 21 points and each made three three-pointers as Washington raced out to an 11-point halftime lead.

Washington’s performance came just two days after losing another game to a sub-.500 team, in Atlanta against the Hawks, its 10th such loss of the season. Just two days prior to that, on Christmas Day, Washington defeated the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics at TD Garden.

“This is a bold statement, but I like coaching this team better,” said Brooks. “That other team, it’s no fun – it’s actually no fun at all. Hopefully, we can be this team more often. We can. We have a prideful group of guys and we didn’t like what happened [on Wednesday]. We said that enough, now it’s time to go out and do it.

As impressive as the offensive output was, the key to the game was stopping the Rockets’ long-range attack, which came into the game leading the NBA in three-pointers made per game at 15.8. Though the Rockets made 14 threes, it came on 48 attempts (29.2 percent). James Harden, leading the NBA in scoring at 32.5 points per game, only attempted 14 shots while scoring 20 points.

“They made tough shots but our defensive pressure was not where it needed to be,” said Harden. “Not just tonight, but it has been like that on our little skid, so we just have to get back to our basics and get back to what we know, how we know how to play and we will be good.”

Point guard Chris Paul returned to the lineup for the Rockets after missing the last three games with a strained groin, putting up eight points and six assists in 26 minutes of action. Houston is still without center Clint Capela, who missed his second straight contest after suffering a right orbital fracture on Christmas Day in Oklahoma City.

“We sort of had guys in and out all season long but we just pick it up, figure it out,” said Paul. “It’s been a tough stretch for us. You just deal with it.”

Houston is now 15-2 in games that Paul and Harden have played in, but, overall, the Rockets have now lost five in a row after starting the season 25-4.

“We’re fine,” said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. “We have some tired legs and we’re missing the big guy (Capela) in the middle that gives us the force to the rim. James [Harden] was tired tonight, no question about it [and] Chris [Paul] just came back. We have all kind of excuses, but that doesn’t work and it doesn’t matter. We lost, they won and they were the better team tonight. We have to pick it up. We have a home game in two days and we have to pick it up.”

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