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Houston Rockets vs. Washington Wizards game preview

NBA: Washington Wizards at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets make their only trip to the nation’s capital tonight.

Houston will have to shore up its suddenly porous defense, which looked absolutely dreadful in terms of effort on Saturday night. It’s one thing for Collin Sexton to hit a ton of long twos. You tip your cap and dare him to do it again on January 11 (he won’t). It’s another thing entirely to allow every opposing player drive into the lane uncontested to draw fouls and/or get easy layups.

The officiating was frustrating for Houston, but that has been the story all season. Last year, the Rockets suffered from the new continuation rules, which were put in place to slow down James Harden. He overcame it and won the MVP. This season, referees are allowing a little more physicality on the perimeter when Harden has the ball, and he hasn’t fully adjusted yet. Add in the “stepping over the free throw line” calls, and you can see why I wish people would watch the Rockets more to see that the “James gets all the calls” narrative is baloney.

Anyway, Houston gets a suddenly spunky Wizards team that is 2-0 at home since the practice blowup that involved John Wall hurling obscenities at coach (and former Rocket) Scott Brooks. Those two wins came at the expense of the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers and recently mediocre New Orleans Pelicans team.

The Rockets will have their hands full with the speed of John Wall and company. The Pistons set up the blueprint to beat the Rockets: get your guards in isolation and attack the basket. Cleveland picked it up and continued the trend. It’s the exact offense that Houston runs, but now the Rockets have to find an answer that other teams have struggled to discover since the beginning of last season.

Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. will be the leading candidates for “Guy who makes everything against Houston,” and Markieff Morris and Austin Rivers are always happy to oblige, if history has anything to say.

The key for Houston will be containing Washington’s speed and forcing the Wizards to take contested shots in the halfcourt.

And no, we’re not going to talk about whatever the hell is going on with Dwight Howard. Keep it civil.

Tip-off is at 6pm CT on NBA TV