Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 54th game of the season at home against the Houston Rockets are TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and guest Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) who writes about the Rockets for Red94, an ESPN TrueHoop Network blog.
Wizards Starters (16-37):
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Rockets Starters (31-26):
Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Carlos Delfino, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Rockets over the past week?)
@MichaelVPina: We just had the trade deadline, which means things are obviously different in Houston. This year Daryl Morey shocked everyone by acquiring reigning number five overall pick Thomas Robinson from Sacramento, and completely renovating the Rockets’ power forward rotation. While Robinson might not be the best player in the six player deal (today, that’s probably Patrick Patterson), he’s without a doubt the most important. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits in down the stretch, and if he can eventually crack the starting lineup.
Editor’s Note: Robinson did not play in the Rockets’ 106-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@MichaelVPina: He hasn’t played a game for the Rockets yet—as he was a throw-in in the deal for Thomas Robinson—but Francisco Garcia could be huge for the Rockets. Shackled in Sacramento all these years, he’s a long, good 3-point shooter who should fit right into their up and down offensive style.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@MichaelVPina: Jeremy Lin and John Wall is always a fun battle, going back to their infamous Summer League tango a few years ago. Statistically, it’ll be interesting to see how Houston’s much-talked-about offense does against Washington’s not-so-much-talked-about-but-really-good defense.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@rashad20: This has the potential to be a statement game for Bradley Beal. When the Rockets and the John Wall-less Wizards played on December 12th, Beal had 20 points, five assists and four rebounds–not a bad game for a rookie early in the season. James Harden, the man Beal was assigned to check the entire game, had 31 points–17 of them coming in the first quarter. In fairness to Beal, Harden is giving the business to the entire NBA this season by averaging 26.4 points a game, including a 46-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder recently. But one of the best ways to slow down a big scorer is to make him work on the other end of the floor, and Beal can do just that. Wall can break down Jeremy Lin at will, and Martell Webster is shooting 44.7 percent from the 3-point line (third-best in the NBA), so the Rockets will not be able to cheat off their respective men to help Harden. If Beal can match or best Harden in the scoring department, while minimizing the cheap fouls (he fouled out against the Rockets in December), the Wizards have a shot at back-to-back victories.
Daryl Morey vs Ernie Grunfeld
@rashad20: The Wizards traded Jordan Crawford for Leandro Barbosa (out with a torn ACL) and Jason Collins (34 years old). The Rockets traded Toney Douglas, Cole Aldrich, Patrick Patterson and $1 million cash to the Sacramento Kings for reserves Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, and the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Thomas Robinson. The Rockets clearly made the smarter trade, but for a GM and/or an owner, the trade is only half the battle–the explanation of the trade is what the head coach, the players and the fans will follow closely. A bad explanation could result in a loss or lack of faith, while a smart, detailed plan could buy the team’s front office, the benefit of the doubt.
The Spread: The Wizards are 1.5 point underdogs to the Rockets; the over/under is 210 points (via USA Today).
@MichaelVPina: Houston 111, Washington 89.
@rashad20: Washington 95, Houston 91. The Wizards’ backcourt of Wall and Beal will outplay Houston’s Jeremy Lin and James Harden. Both team will be a bit lethargic playing the second of back-to-back games, but the Wizards will have the Verizon Center advantage.