WASHINGTON — Who knew the first sports-related fireworks in the nation’s capital on Wednesday night dealing with sports teams from Houston and Washington would have nothing to do with the Washington Nationals’ successful quest for their first World Series title? The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards could not stop scoring for fun, with a 59-point masterclass performance stealing the show and the victory for the road team.
James Harden sank the game-winning free throw with 2.4 seconds remaining, the last of his 59 points, to cap a thrilling 159-158 victory by Houston over the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena, the home opener for Washington. Backcourt mate Russell Westbrook recorded his 140th career triple-double, with 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
The 317 combined points are the most scored in a non-overtime game in the NBA since the start of the century.
“I didn’t know we were going to have to score about 160 points to win but whatever it takes it took,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “A lot of great individual performances. They played unbelievable. They didn’t miss anything. We just let down a little bit and they made everything.”
Washington did end up making 62.6 percent of their shots all game, but Harden seemed to almost make every play in the second half, scoring 38 points in the final 24 minutes – 21 in the third quarter and 17 more in the fourth. After Bradley Beal made three free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining to tie the game at 158, Harden drove to the basket and was fouled on a free-throw-line jumper by Isaac Bonga.
Harden made the first before missing the second, and Washington was unable to get a final shot off to close out the victory – something the baseball counterpart was not able to do in the Space City a couple of hours later as the Astros went down 6-2 in Game 7.
“We won’t call many timeouts tonight. We won’t call any challenges,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “Make sure you tell [Rockets coach] Mike [D’Antoni] to do the same thing because we have another game we’d like to watch tonight.”
The contest on the floor in D.C. was just as enthralling, with Beal playing the equivalent of Washington’s cleanup hitter, almost matching Harden blow for blow by scoring 46 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds. Rui Hachimura, the Wizards’ first-round pick this off-season, marked his home debut with 23 points, making all three of his three-point attempts.
Each of Washington’s four reserves who played in the game scored in double figures, with Davis Bertans leading the second unit with 21 points, including hitting six 3-pointers. Isaiah Thomas produced a double-double in 24 minutes off the bench, with 17 points and 10 assists.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 16 pictures in total.