Gary Neal's three-point shot appeared to go down, and then it rimmed out. Instead of a seven-point lead to give the Wizards more momentum in the fourth quarter, they fell apart.
James Harden scored 42 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Houston Rockets won 109-103 at Verizon Center in front of 16,041 on Wednesday night. His three-point play with 2:13 left put them ahead for good to break a 99-99 tie.
In his first game back after being out three games for personal leave, Marcin Gortat posted his fourth consecutive double-double with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting and 13 rebounds. John Wall came close to a triple-double and was the Wizards' only offense late, finishing with a team-high 26 points, game-high 12 assists and nine rebounds.
The other three starters reached double figures, too: Bradley Beal had 15 points, Otto Porter 13 and Jared Dudley 10.
The Rockets (11-12) led through most of the first half where James Harden had 19 of his points. The Wizards (9-11) had just won on the road at the Miami Heat and were hoping to build momentum before they go on the road to play at the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, followed by at the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, at the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and at the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 16.
- Dudley, true to form as the glue guy, sparked the third-quarter run. Dudley made a three for the Wizards' first bucket, then on help defense on Harden, who had a game-high seven turnovers, he stripped him clean to give Porter a layup. It was Dudley's next three at 8:13 to give the Wizards the lead again at 62-61. He didn't play in the fourth quarter, however, which is surprising.
- Beal didn't handle the pressure well. The Rockets were doubling him on the catch and his decisions with the ball weren't good. He lost the ball on a double-team from Dwight Howard and when the open looks came he was off. Beal missed 7 of 9 to start and was just 5 of 15 overall. He had Patrick Beverley on his hip in the mid-post and his indecisiveness allowed the help to get there as Marcus Thornton got the steal. Beal's sixth turnover produced a runout for a wide open three-pointer from Beverley at the six-minute mark. Houston regained the lead 95-93. Beal finished with seven giveaways.
- Although the Wizards had been going small successfully without Gortat, they needed him back for this one with Howard. The pick-and-roll coverages overall were terrible which led to a 13-point deficit and Houston shooting 6 of 7 to open. But Gortat outdid his former teammate when both were with the Orlando Magic. Howard was 1 of 4 for four points and nine rebounds. Still, they never went back to the small-ball lineups that were key to wins vs. the Phoenix Suns and Miami this week even though the Rockets opened the fourth with Harden, Beverley, Ty Lawson, Jason Terry and Donatas Motiejunas.
- If there's any doubt who is the best player on the Wizards, it's Wall. Beal usually is the best scorer but he's in such a funk now that Wall is proving to be the best scorer, too. In his last six games, Wall has made 63 of 115 shots for 54.7%, is averaging 27.7 points, 9.8 assists and 3.0 steals. Wall can get his own shot and create for others, and his assists would be much greater if Beal or Porter could hit their open shots.
- Harden was allowed to dribble at will to get in a rhythm early. The Wizards started to double him more aggressively to force the ball out of his hands which resulted in open looks for Beverley who made 4 of 11 threes for 14 points. He took two more threes than Harden which actually is something a team can live with.