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Wizards Wriggle Past Rockets 105-103

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For the Wizards it's an impressive victory, for the Rockets, its a trap loss on the road.

Greg Smith's agony is my lasting impression of this game.
Greg Smith's agony is my lasting impression of this game.
Rob Carr

That wasn't pleasant.

The Washington Wizards got a season high scoring game from Trevor Ariza. Emeka Okafor made a clutch FT. The Wizards shot 12FT to 2 for Houston in the fourth quarter, and the Rockets turned the ball over like it was early January in the 4th as well. The Rockets short-handed roster got shorter when Greg Smith went down after being hit (accidentally) by Trevor Ariza. With all that in play the Wizards eked out a 105-103 win in front of a sellout crowd at home.

That's why they call these "trap games", because they're a trap for weary and unwary teams expecting a win.

Let's be fair to Washington, they played a good game, but with all due respect, if both teams play their best, Rockets win.

Here are things that went wrong.

  1. Trevor Ariza played his one good offensive game of the year. Apparently covering and driving on an exhausted-looking James Harden is well within Ariza's capabilities. His defense often bothered Harden, and Ariza (one of the least offensively savvy players I've ever seen) shot 8-12. Let me make a small internet wager for pride with anyone interested. Ariza will not shoot 75% with 10+ shots again this season. In fact, I'm willing to extend that bet to the remainder of his career.
  2. Jeremy Lin looked sick, and played like he was sick, too. THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY when sick guy on a back to back doesn't play because he isn't playing that well.
  3. Tired Rockets jacked too many 3s. Forty Six. 46! Tired teams drive less, and make fewer jumpers, too. The road trip and short bench told the tale. When the Rockets are too tired to attack and run, they generally lose.
  4. Rockets shot 2 FTs to Washington's 12 in the 4th. When the margin of victory is that small, and the disparity is that big, its hard to say it made no difference. Harden didn't shoot any FTs after 9:23 in the 3rd, and only shot 4 for the game. There may be reasons for fewer drives beyond tiredness.
  5. Washington played a good game. They did, so give them credit. Shooting 51% and 84% from the line, the Wizards were 2pts better than the Rockets tonight.
  6. Wizards employed tactics I'd expect of the Rondo-led Celtics - slowing the ball down time and again after makes, often delaying the game, presumably to avoid the Rockets running on them. It sort of worked, but it's cheap and unmanly. Refs don't often call it, but it's a delay of game, and should have been shots. Often.
  7. Greg Smith got his knee smashed and the Rockets lost their only other hefty player against a team with a big frontcourt. Get well soon Greg.

Let's talk about some things that weren't the reason the Rockets lost.

  1. Rockets coaching. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'd do if I was playing a big Wizards front court, and all I had was Omer Asik and Donatas Motiejunas, particularly if the refs weren't going to let the Rockets bigs play defense anyway. Seriously, Asik was called for a foul when John Wall traveled into him in the 4th.
  2. Delfino was in for the Okafor's FTs that sealed the game. Yes, Delfino should have grabbed the board, but the Rockets shouldn't have been in this position.
  3. Because the Rockets hate Jeremy Lin. Stop it. Just stop. You know who you are.

Well, Rockets now have to integrate more young players, again, but for the Donatas Motiejunas lovers out there, you have to like what you've seen over the last couple of games. McHale is talking about Motie taking the starting spot, and I expect to see it after the Rockets get a good 3 days of practice. Motiejunas looks like a very good, and raw, player to me. I am not surprised to see his well-rounded game. He managed 11pts, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in 23 minutes. That doesn't really show how active DMo was on the glass, he got his hands on many more rebounds on tips and bat outs. Motiejunas played against a couple of the biggest guys in the NBA underneath and outplayed them most of the time he was out there, but his defensive movement is still choppy.

Also, people, the Rockets have a ton of talent, but its not NBA 2K, where you just plug guys in. The players are human, they need practices to know what to do, they need game time with their teammates to know their tendencies. Guys moving from the bench to a starting role need to learn that role. These things matter, even if we wish they didn't.

That's about all I have left. Rockets don't play again until Wednesday - time to rest, practice, and add the new players. This one leaves a bad taste, let's see a win against the JJ Redick Bucks.