From The Other Side: Wizards vs Rockets — One Loss, Three Perspectives | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: Wizards vs Rockets — One Loss, Three Perspectives

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Updated: November 27, 2018

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20  focused on the different perspectives of a loss from the Houston Rockets locker room.

The Washington Wizards defeated the Houston Rockets 135-131 in overtime, which meant for at least one night the noise associated with being an underachieving team was hushed. Postgame, there was no discussion about the personal lives of the players, nor fights during practice or trade rumors involving everyone on the team. Criticism about the Wizards’ porous defense, which allowed 131 points to a Chris Paul-less Rockets squad, would have been justified. But with a win, that would simply be nitpicking.

If the Wizards had some how managed to lose last night’s game, the gloom and doom motifs would surely have resurfaced, as would the calls for changes in personnel, coaching and front office guidance.

The Rockets, who have underachieved as much as the Wizards this season, dropped to 9-10 after last night’s L, and are now losers of three in a row after previously winning five straight.

On the surface, this loss highlights how far away this Houston team is to matching the accomplishments of last year’s squad, who fell to the Golden State Warriors in seven games. Their loss to the Wizards also shines a light on their poor defense (they allowed 135 points) largely due to their inability to retain Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute and their bumbling of the Carmelo Anthony situation. But in the locker room after the game, gloom, doom—and the type of woe-is-me attitude that seems to consume losing teams—was nowhere to be found.

In fact, the response to the loss varied, depending on where in the Rockets locker room the media sought out quotes. Some comments were louder than others, like this from Houston boss Mike D’Antoni:

“Yeah, I mean we’re asking especially James [Harden], ‘Hey you know what, play 54 minutes and make every play.’ There’s just going to be periods where he is gassed. Until we get our guys back and get some more bodies on the floor, it’s a long road trip, hit us with a schedule that was tough. As you just saw, he brought us back single handily and had us there and just couldn’t close the deal because he got gassed, PJ [Tucker], and Eric [Gordon], and Clint [Capela]. You know, we got some tired guys….we didn’t have the necessary force to close them out when we needed to and we made some mistakes going down the end. We had some turnovers.”

Chris Paul and Gerald Green played in the first game of the Rockets’ road trip (a loss against the Pistons), but in the second road game, Paul sat out with an injured hamstring. Prior to the contest against the Wizards, D’Antoni announced that both Paul and Green would sit out the game. The newly signed Danuel House (more on him later) would take Green’s minutes and Harden would be forced to take on even more ball-handling duties.

D’Antoni knew full well that his team would be shorthanded, and he knew that his team’s fate would be heavily dependent on Harden’s ability to score. And score Harden did. But he was ultimately beset with fatigue, and when Eric Gordon (36 points) no longer had any energy to give, the Rockets lost yet again on the road.

Clearly, D’Antoni was not happy with the loss. While he credited the Wizards for making timely plays and pouncing on his Rockets as they missed shots, played substandard defense and committed lazy turnovers, D’Antoni also spoke like a man who knows full well that these struggles are temporary. “It’s just a matter of trying to bridge these troubled waters a little bit. Go ahead. We’ll get there.”

Danuel House’s post-shower body language indicated that he too was disappointed with the Rockets’ overtime loss to the Wizards, but his words and his smiling face told a much different and happier story.

Earlier in the day, the Rockets called him up from Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G-league, where had been averaging a team-leading 20.4 points a game. After the game, House gave the media details about how hectic his life had been leading to up to the game against the Wizards:

“I had just came out from playing a game in the G-league (on Saturday night) and then getting a call later that night, packing up the whole house in Rio Grande with my wife and kids, and my mom and pops, and pushing everything in two vehicles. And then trucking to Houston and then catching another flight and arriving at 12 and waking back up, but I’m grateful though, but its an honor and privilege to be here especially since I’m from Houston”.

House, who spent most of his rookie season with the Wizards (including two summer league stints in 2016 and 2017) mentioned that Bradley Beal, John Wall and Otto Porter all came up to him to say how happy they were for him.

On the court, House finished four points and three rebounds in 28 minutes of play, and after the game he admitted that he had to get better. But off the court, despite the loss, House could not stop smiling at what this latest opportunity could mean to his family:

“Going back home like I said because I’m from Houston, it’s going to be huge. It’s an honor because it’s my family name. It’s about showing my little cousins and people that’s around me, to never give up and continue to fight. Life can throw you down but you gotta be judged by how you stand up”

James Harden finished with 54 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and an alarming 11 turnovers in 47 minutes of play. Twenty-one of those points came in an amazing third quarter of play, when Wizards Coach Scott Brooks unsuccessfully threw the kitchen sink at him. Harden scored just 10 points after that quarter (including a four-point play late in regulation to give his team a four-point lead).

During the postgame, Harden would have had every right to fall on the ‘I just got tired’ scenario that Coach D’Antoni had mentioned a few minutes earlier. But Harden, who, with our without Chris Paul’s presence on or off the court, is still the leader of the team, chose to focus on his team’s deficiencies:

“It is about our entire team. We had a really good start to the game, kind of let our guard down and they made some shots and got comfortable and we all know what happens when a team gets comfortable and wins the game. It is frustrating…John [Wall] got to the rim making some layups, he hit some good shots, Brad [Bradley Beal] hit some good shots. We get into them aggressively and we started to foul them too much, put them in the penalty with 10 mins in the second quarter and you cannot be aggressive because every time you foul, they are at the line, so we will watch some film and get better.”

Not once while discussing the Rockets’ loss to the Wizards did Harden mention fatigue or the absence of Paul or Gerald Green. Only when he was asked to discuss why the Rockets had dropped three straight games after a five-game win streak did Harden mention the lack of depth–and  he abruptly ended his postgame comments after that.

Coach D’Antoni had perspective, Danuel House had unadulterated joy and James Harden was critical. One loss, three different viewpoints, and one hell of a game.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.