D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Rockets, Game 35
Wizards vs. Rockets… a chance for both teams to redeem themselves, the Wizards having gotten blown out by the Pacers in Indiana on Friday night, and the Rockets losing by three points, 80-83, to the Hawks in Atlanta.
On the scene at the Verizon Center in D.C. on this Saturday night, this opening statements will provide pre-game answers from both coaches, Kevin McHale of the Rockets and Randy Wittman of the Wizards.
Teams: Wizards vs Rockets
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Rockets fav’d by 2 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: To Houston Rockets Coach Kevin McHale…
Can you teach James Harden’s ability to get to the free throw line?
K. McHale: “No, that’s an innate art that he brought into the league; he had it in college. He’s got a great knack and great body control. I think that anybody that gets fouled a lot, anticipates … drives you hard, cuts back, sees you at the angle you’re on, and decides if he’s going to cut that angle. When he cuts that angle, you can’t get out of the way. And that’s how you get fouled a lot. He just cuts your angle off, so there’s a lot of contact. And normally he wins all those angle cuts because he’s smart enough. If he comes across and sees you got a better angle than him, he doesn’t take it. As soon as he’s got an angle on you, he takes it.”
Q #2: To McHale…
Has your philosophy in guarding John Wall changed with his improved jumper (and yes, I’ve asked this of a couple NBA coaches)?
K. McHale: “No … his biggest thing is downhill and the paint, and you’ve got to try to keep him out of it. He makes some jump shots, and he’ll have to make some jump shots… Try to make them off the dribble. His catch-and-shoot has really improved. You know, he’s a good player, you can’t take away everything. So you have to give up something and if you give up something, you give up jump shots, as opposed to letting him get in the paint. Where he’s really effective is when he’s on the break and has a head of steam coming downhill. And with multiple guys shooting the ball really well this year — Ariza, Beal, they’ve got a bunch of guys shooting the 3-ball — so we’re going to have to be at home and contain him, which is not going to be easy.”
Q #3: Randy Wittman on…
His team shooting 9-for-23 from the free throw line in Indiana:
R. Wittman got jokes: “I made phone call to Vogel after the game and asked him where he came up with that defense on the free throw line. That was some of the best I’ve seen. So I’m going to have to take this offseason and spend some time with him to find out how he defends the free throw line.”
Q #4: Wittman on…
How hard James Harden is to scout:
R. Wittman: “It’s hard. He’s an unorthodox kind of player that can do multiple things, shoot the 3, handles the ball a lot in pick-and-rolls, he can get to the rim. Obviously, he does a great job drawing fouls … I’m sure he’s got to rank somewhere at the top [in the league in FTAs*]. That’s why he’s a great player. He’s got different facets to his game that he can do, so that makes it hard [to scout him]. But, like I said, the main thing we got to do is we’ve got to stay aggressive no matter what we’re trying to do at a particular time against him, and stay with it. A team that shoots 26, 27 3-pointers per game are going to make some, and we’ve got to not get discouraged when that happens and stay in the game. That’s kind of what happened here last year with this team — they made 13 3s in the first quarter or first half last year** — and we just stayed with it and ended up winning the game coming down the stretch.”
* Kevin Durant leads the NBA with 9.8 free throw attempts per game, Harden is second with 9.3 FTAs per game.
** The Rockets shot 13-for-28 from 3-point land in the first half of last season’s Feb. 23 game in D.C.; they ended up 19-for-46 for the game and missed seven out of 10 attempts in the fourth quarter of a 105-103 Wizards win in overtime.