Game Day: Houston Rockets versus Washington Wizards
The Houston Rockets finish off the second night of a back to back set in Washington facing the under performing Wizards.
The thing is this Wizards squad and John Wall may not have been playing very well through the first quarter of the season sure looked strong when they took down the top ranked Eastern Conference Miami Heat this past Monday December 7th. The question is which team will arrive on the court tonight?
As for the Houston Rockets the team who played in Brooklyn looked like the squad who was losing multiple games early in the season and not playing defense instead of the squad who had won five or their past six games prior to the game at Barclays. Following last night’s loss in Brooklyn the other aspect of this match-up will be whether Trevor Ariza can even go after he took a very hard fall and was visibly injured as he slowly limped off the court.
While the young big Donatas Motiejunas is back he’s still working slowly back into form and getting just a few minutes per game and it’s not even certain the squad will want to have him play back to back games yet.
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington DC
Game Time: 7:00 PM EST – 6:00 PM CT
TV: ROOT in Houston, CSN in Washington or NBA League Pass
Radio: 790 AM in Houston and WNEW 99.1 in Washington
December 29th: WASH 104- 103 HOU
March 29th: HOU 99-91 WASH
Of note, the game the Rockets lost in Houston last season was a chippy affair with the zebra’s giving all the 50-50 calls to the Wizards. The follow-up game was one of hte messiest of the season occurring on a Sunday afternoon. Both teams looked like they were asleep prior to James Harden waking up and going on a roll to register the win (one of many the Rockets registered in their favorite Sunday afternoon slot).
- Marcin Gortat – was out for personal reasons Monday, is questionable tonight
- Nene Hilario – calf, day to day, questionable tonight
- Drew Gooden – calf, day to day, questionable tonight
- Alan Anderson – ankle, out until at least mid December
- Trevor Ariza– back, hard fall Tuesday, looked very sore leaving the court though x-rays were negative is questionable for Wednesday
- Sam Dekker – back surgery November 20 , will be out 3 months
- Donatas Motiejunas – though he has played the last few games, I wonder if Bickerstaff may rest him for safety purposes tonight.
The Key Match-up:
With the unknown of whether Ariza will be available for the Rockets and whether the front court off Nene and Gortat will be available the focus shifts to the back court. While Bradley Beal has been progressively improving James Harden should take this match-up seriously and look to showcase why he is still the top ranked shooting guard in the Association.
Patrick Beverley will have his hands full guarding John Wall who literally is the key cog for the Wizards – – as Wall goes so go his Wiz. He took a shot to his knee last week and then came back the next night to lead his teammates to an upset over Miami. With the Wizards getting out to such a poor start he’ll be looking to lead his short handed squad to a back to back victory (something they haven’t accomplished in since mid November when they won 3 in a row versus Magic, Bucks and Pistons).
The key will be Otto Porter Jr. who began showing major growth in the playoffs and has continued his ascent this season. If Ariza can’t go Porter could be the x-factor.
Keys To Winning:
Defense: The teams look an awful lot alike when you compare them on the page. Notably the Wizards rank 21st defensively compared to the Rockets 27th rank. And while Houston looked to be improving seeing how poorly they played in Brooklyn looked like the team taking a step back again. They’ll be facing the Wizards likely without their defensive leader in Ariza, so Harden and Howard need to make a point of playing twice as hard on the defensive end of the court.
Drive and Feed the Paint: With the potential for Gortat and Nene to miss another game the Rockets need to utilize Harden, Beverley and Lawson to drive the paint and either score easily or set up corner shooters.
Force Wall into Being a Jump Shooter: Wall’s shot has looked terrible this season and the way to make him less successful is to force him into being a jump shooter. Once he gains penetration in the paint and gets into a groove setting up his teammates it can be a long night for the opponent. Though the Wizards have been trying to push pace and become an offensive juggernaut, so far they’ve fallen shot ranking in 25th in the Association. Conversely the one area the reformulated Bickerstaff team seems to have a grasp on is their offense.
I have to say I’m a little shocked Washington are favored to win given the injuries and/or uncertainties of who might not dress tonight however the Wizards are a 3.5 favorite with an over/under of 215 points.
Now, in fairness the Rockets sure don’t give us reason to jump up and down with an absolute confirmation they’ll prevail. Still, it’s the type of game the Rockets tend to excel in and they also love to prove the odds makers wrong.
Let’s call this an overtime victory by one point!
For more exciting news and stories on the Washington Wizards visit our affiliate Fansided site: Wiz of Awes Plus check our our Preseason Team Preview of the Wizards :
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