Matchup: Washington Wizards (9-10) vs. Houston Rockets (10-12)
When: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. (TV: CSN, CSNMidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra)
When last we met: First game this season.
Streaks: Fun with numbers. The Wizards have lost five of their last eight games. They've also won three of five including road wins over the Cavaliers and Heat when both were leading the Eastern Conference. Guards John Wall, Bradley Beal and Gary Neal combined for 68 points in Monday's 114-103 win in Miami. ...The Rockets had won three in a row before losing 110-105 at Brooklyn Tuesday night.
Three things to to watch
1. Machine in use -- Center Marcin Gortat, a.k.a. The Polish Machine, is back with the team after missing the last three games while attending to family matters. His return gives the short-handed Wizards needed help, but also size. It will be interesting to see if or how often coach Randy Wittman uses variations of the extreme small-ball lineups Washington trotted out in recent games. Houston isn't the biggest team outside of center Dwight Howard. Gortat registered three straight double-doubles before leaving, averaging 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.
2. Defend the arc -- Opponents are shooting 39.5 percent on 3-point attempts against the Wizards this season. That's not just bad for Washington, but the worst in the league. Houston attempts 31.0 3-pointers per game. That's not just a lot, but only a tick behind the league-leading Golden State Warriors. The Rockets are only 21st in shooting percentage (32.9), but we've seen plenty of players find the zone against Washington. Wesley Matthews wasn't exactly on fire from beyond the arc before draining 10 in Dallas' win over Washington Sunday. Rockets star James Harden attempts 8.5 3-pointers per game, but is only shooting 30 percent.
3. Backcourt battle -- Everyone knows about Harden, Most Valuable Player runner-up last year. The wing guard now has a new partner in the starting lineup, though not so new. Patrick Beverly, a starter most of last season, was initially coming off the bench after the Rockets added D.C. area native Ty Lawson. With the Harden-Lawson dynamic not working -- both ball-dominant guards -- new coach J.B. Bickerstaff moved Beverly back in the starting lineup. Good move. In seven starts, the Beverly, know mostly as a rugged defender and agitator, is shooting 50 percent (14 of 28) from beyond the arc with a nearly 3:1 assists-to-turnover ratio.