Another day, another Wizards’ road loss. But unlike Sunday’s game in San Antonio, Washington actually had a chance to beat Houston. In a matchup of two teams going in opposite directions — Houston looking to win its season-best fifth consecutive game and get back to the .500 mark; Washington still winless on the road and losers of nine of their last ten — the Rockets were nine point favorites. I mention the spread only because the Wizards beat the Rockets by seven points in Washington on November 10. Clearly, a lot has changed since John Wall recorded his first career triple double, as the Wizards have set a new standard for futility on the road (0-15 away from home this season; 16 straight road losses going back to last season, a franchise record).
Some observations from the loss:
- Andray Blatche had a nice game, going 7-15 from the field and finishing with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and three steals. The rebounds were an encouraging sign, given Blatche’s seeming unwillingness to mix it up in the post against physical front courts. He also had a nice steal off an inbounds pass in the third quarter, which led to an easy layup. However, Blatche’s turnovers continue to be an issue: he had six TO’s last night, and is averaging close to three TO’s per game on the season. The bulk of these turnovers came on offensive fouls, as Rockets defenders simply stepped in front of several Blatche dribble-drives, and the contact (as usual) was not resolved in Andray’s favor after he put his head down.
- Blatche’s nightclub pal JaVale McGee had an uneven game. Epic Vale shot 1-5 from the field, and only played 24 minutes as the Rockets used a smaller, faster lineup in the second half. On one particularly miserable offensive sequence near the ten minute mark of the second quarter, JaVale secured the rebound after a Nick Young miss, missed a layup, grabbed his own miss, and then missed all of the rim on a second, fadeaway attempt. Phil Chenier called the last shot a “pass,” but I think he was being generous. But, McGee did work on defense and on the offensive glass; he had three blocks, altered several other shots, and grabbed four offensive rebounds. He also did a nice job staying in front of the Rockets’ guards when caught in the pick-and-roll.One ridiculous play: with about ten seconds left in the third quarter, McGee blocked an Aaron Brooks 3-point attempt, when it appeared that JaVale had no chance of closing out. Instead, McGee’s Wookie-wingspan prevailed. Also worth noting — JaVale led the team in plus/minus at plus-5.
- John Wall appeared to be unaffected by his ailing right knee, as he put a lot of pressure on Houston’s defense, both in transition and off the pick-and-roll. He finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. Though he shot only 2-7 from the field, Wall got to the free-throw line 13 times. He also handled Kyle Lowry‘s physical defense well, countering with a combination of hesitation moves and pure speed. Wall’s defense on Aaron Brooks was solid, as Brooks did not look comfortable all night and only shot 5-15 from the field.
- Rashard Lewis started the game at small forward and led the team in minutes with 43. Lewis finished the game with 12 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on 6-16 shooting. He missed both of his 3-point attempts badly, but Lewis made some nice decisions with the ball, finding the open man with quick passes. Given the Wizards’ troubles with ball movement, the presence of experienced decision makers in Lewis and Josh Howard is encouraging.
- With regards to ball movement — it seemed to be a lot better last night, as the Wizards seemingly ran their offense quicker than in the previous two games. Note: Washington scored 80 points in each of the previous two games, so the bar was set pretty low.
- Kirk Hinrich turned in another good performance, with 19 points on 7-15 shooting and five rebounds. Fourteen of Kirk’s 19 points came in the first half. After it became abundantly clear that Nick Young could not guard Kevin Martin (Martin dropped 10 points on Nick in the first quarter), Kirk defended Martin fairly well. Martin finished with 20 points for the game. Outlier stat of the night: Hinrich had zero assists last night, this after averaging nine assists per game since December 15.
- Josh Howard (23 minutes) certainly looks to be taking over Al Thornton‘s (8 minutes) playing time. I can’t say this is a bad thing, given Thornton’s three-point shooting woes (3-20 from deep on the season) and inability to do anything other than shoot contested jumpers.
- Reason why the Wizards lost: they did not score in the last 2:40 of the game, and were outscored 32-20 in the fourth quarter. The three-point defense also failed down the stretch, as threes by Brooks and Martin sealed the game for the Rockets late.
- Only the Wizards’ team defense could make Shane Battier look like Kobe Bryant — Battier finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting. Battier got into the lane repeatedly, and made several tough shots off the backboard. Somewhere, Daryl Morey was laughing his ass off.
- Kirk Hinrich’s black-eye is awesome. I wonder what color it will be next game.