Key Legislature: Wizards 104 at Rockets 103 — Houston's Starship Grounded in Texas | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 104 at Rockets 103 — Houston’s Starship Grounded in Texas

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Updated: December 30, 2014

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 30 versus the Rockets in Houston, via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) from Bethesda, Maryland.

DC Council Key Legislature

by John Converse Townsend.

The Washington Wizards, 22-8, are enjoying their best start to a season in decades. Per Elias, it’s the best start since 1974-75, when the Wizards were still known as the Bullets. That ’74-75 team finished the season with a 60-22 record, first in their division, second in the Eastern Conference, and ended up in the NBA Finals.

Whoa, cuteness overload!

The 104-103 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night was many things: delayed, full of mistakes, chock-full of highlights. Easy wasn’t one of them.

“Listen, it’s hard to win in this league,” peachbasket director Randy Wittman said. “What am I taking away from this? It’s a good win to start this road trip. There are things we can do better and we learn from them. But in my book there is not a bad win.”

After a raucous first few minutes in which Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard tried to tear down the basket with rim-rattling alley-oops, the Wizards found their footing. They played their way into a 14-13 lead midway through the first quarter—a couple of transition baskets helped the cause.

Also, Bradley Beal was taking early advantage of being defended by James Harden, making four of his first five shots. This isn’t to say he looked entirely comfortable, however: he went glass on two of those makes, but only once with intent. Harden, in typical fashion, answered with scores on consecutive possessions to end the quarter. His Rockets led by three, 27-24.

The Rockets would hold that lead for much of the second quarter, capitalizing on Wizards mistakes by scoring on the break (8 in the second quarter). Harden Eurostepped into a layup to extend the lead to five points with two minutes to play in the first half. On the other end, Beal hit a step-back 3 over Harden and Howard. Two-point game.

After a missed 3 from Trevor Ariza, Pierce found himself free in the right corner, but missed his attempt. Beal was able to secure the offensive rebound over Howard, then backpedalled, as if hoping to go unnoticed, into the same corner. Splash. That 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 46-45 lead going into intermission.

The Wizards are undefeated when leading at the half: 17-0.

But while statistics like that can keep coaches and players warm on cold winter nights, they don’t win games. Third-quarter offensive explosions, on the other hand, definitely do.

The Wizards’ starters put together a 25-8 run over the first 7:38 of the second half:

  1. John Wall – 6 points
  2. Bradley Beal – 3
  3. Paul Pierce – 11
  4. Nene – 4
  5. Marcin Gortat – 1

That five-man unit, while not often used (for a number of reasons, including injury), has one of the better plus/minus ratings in the NBA this season, plus-5.2 per game (plus-28 per 48 minutes).

At 71-53, the Wizards had taken over mission control in Houston. Rockets fans were booing. But as Randy Wittman reminded the media after the game, and as Tom Thibodeau said after the Bulls scrappy win over the Pacers: “No lead is safe in this league. It’s funny: You always hear, ‘You’re up 10. Get those guys (starters) out of there.’ Not in this league.”

The Rockets, down 11 after three quarters, put together a 13-2 run in the fourth.

“Yes! This game is tied. The Rockets have come all the way back from down 18 points,” erupted Houston play-by-play legend Bill Worrell, after James Harden swished a step-back jumper with 5:07 left to play in regulation.

What happened next may surprise you. Or not, since the Wizards went full Wizard.

Paul Pierce spun around Corey Brewer to get into the lane, got Dwight Howard out of position with a jump-pass to Nene, who then convinced both James Harden and Trevor Ariza with a shot-fake, before finishing the play with a right-handed finger roll. 82-80, Wizards.

Nene collected Jason Terry’s missed reverse layup on the other end, passed to Wall, who darted towards the Rockets basket, before dishing to Bradley Beal (wide-open, of course) behind the 3-point line. Watergate. 85-80, Wizards. “I was fortunate to have a lot of open shots,” Beal said after the game.

Paul Pierce stole the ball from Brewer on the next possession, which led to this:

Timeout Rockets; 87-80, Wizards. 

After the stop in play, and a missed 3-pointer from Trevor Ariza, Wall was fouled on a coast-to-coast layup attempt and made a pair of free throws for his trouble. Ariza, Beverley and Harden would then combine to score seven straight points to cut the lead to 93-91 with two minutes to play.

Beal was sent to the stripe after a give-and-go with Nene, made both shots. He then fought through a Dwight Howard screen to contest a layup from Harden, collected the rebound, and unsheathed the dagger which would cut Rockets’ gas line:

That was that, really.

Harden scored nine points in the final 19 seconds. Impressive, but too little, too late. The Wizards sealed the deal with free throws, where they were 26-for-28 for the game and 12-for-12 in the fourth quarter.

Beal finished the game with a season-high 33 points and went 10-for-10 from the free throw line (6-for-6 in the fourth quarter). “It was me shooting with confidence and playing with confidence,” Beal said.

Big win. Team win. Twenty-two and eight.

 

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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.