At every buzzer there are key moments you can look back on when considering the outcome of a game. Sure, in a contest of ebbs and flows, moments can be subjective, but it doesn’t make it any one less important than others. In a Wizards 114-106 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday, these are some of those slept-on moments…
John Converse Townsend:
When Houston last visited Washington, D.C. in November of 2010, Argentine international Luis Scola tore up the Wizards with 24 points (10-20 FG) and six rebounds. Scola, with the help of shooting guard Kevin Martin, combined to score the first 17 points of the 4th quarter that night, including seven unanswered points that gave the Rockets an 85-84 lead. While Houston lost that game 98-91, Scola made scoring on the Wizards look easy. That wasn’t the case today for Scola, despite the scoring 18 points (8-15 FG) and pulling in five rebounds. The main reason: Jan Vesely. As I pointed out on Twitter, Vesely has the speed, length and instincts to become a lockdown defender in the post. Vesely turned Scola into a passer for much of the final quarter on Monday, holding the Rockets forward to just two field goal attempts. The rookie just needs to get stronger to be able to maintain his defensive position when battling bigs in the low-post. When he does, look out.
With 1:43 left in the second quarter, the Rockets were up 58-49 and John Wall finally hit his first jumper of the game from the left elbow. After a Wizards stop on defense, Wall completed a bucket with the And One, cutting Houston’s lead to four. The Wizards would finish the half strong, down 58-54 at the break. Wall had an extra bounce in his step on Monday afternoon, attacking the rim at will and getting anywhere he wanted with ball. He effectively changed speeds and finished at the rim the best that he has all season, especially in the open court. Wall’s 16 attempts at the free-throw line (he made 12) were proof of the aggressiveness Wizards fans have been expecting out of him.
Late in the game Wall tried his hardest to inspire his team and fuel a big comeback — he had a career-high 38 points on the day after all. But Wall’s blazing speed and hustle were no match for the Wizards’ usual ills: turnovers, missed free-throws and defensive lapses, Wall contributing to each of those areas as well. The key moment came with 7:05 left in the third and the Wizards trying to chip away at a 66-60 Rockets lead. Wall tried to split gap defense, but the ball went off Kyle Lowry’s foot and Houston scored in transition. Wall complained to the ref that a kick ball, or a foul, or something should have been called, but was only awarded a technical foul for his efforts. Not 40 seconds later, Andray Blatche found his non-jumping ability stuffed twice by Samuel Dalembert under the rim. Blatche, also frustrated with the refs, earned himself a technical as well. Flip Saunders called a 20 second timeout, but he still couldn’t get his team to focus. Houston continued to score, thanks to a travelling violation and defensive lapse from JaVale McGee, and suddenly found themselves up 78-64 going into a second Washington timeout within 64 seconds.