Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 11:14pm
By Dave Johnson
CSNwashington.comHouston----This should have been the one. Instead it was just another one.For 46 minutes it looked like the Washington Wizards were going to be able to get back in the win column Instead they suffered their 16th consecutive loss as the Houston Rockets found a way to wiggle out 98-94 victory.With the Rockets also dealing with injuries, rookie forward Chase Budinger emerged as their hero with a career high 24 points. It was Budinger who banked a shot from the top of the key over the outstretched arms of Mike Miller to give the Rockets a 94-92 lead with 28 seconds remaining in the game.Budinger then was able secure the critical rebound after Earl Boykins missed three-point shot from the wing. The Wizards were then forced to foul Budinger and with 11.6 seconds left he made two free throws to provide the Rockets the necessary cushion.Each guy tried to do it himself, noted Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. The reason we played so well for the first 46 minutes is because we shared the ball. Then we got to the last three minutes and we decided to play a different way and stand around and watch.Andray Blatche made it clear he came to play when he scored 20 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 31 points to go with 10 rebounds. Blatche carried the Wizards with Al Thornton still sidelined by a hip flexor injury and Randy Foye now on the sideline with a torn ligament in his left wrist.With 5:11 left in the fourth quarter it was Blatche who was able to pump his first and let out a scream at midcourt after he backed the Rockets Chuck Hayes into the paint and hit a turnaround jumper and drew a foul. Blatche made the free throw and the Wizards led 89-84.The Rockets then tightened on defense, while the Wizards got tight on offense with too many individual plays. The pressure especially intensified on Blatche who missed his final four shot attempts.Dray is playing well but he cant try to always do it by himself, Saunders said. Down the stretch Hayes did a helluva job on him (Blatche). He kept forcing him to take bad shots.The game featured two teams that have been forced into adjustment to their lineups. Rookie guard Jermaine Taylor made only his second career start, while the Rockets injured list included Shane Battier, Kevin Martin and Jared Jeffries.With Thornton and Foye injured and Alonzo Gee now signed with the San Antonio Spurs, the Wizards started Shaun Livingston and Nick Young at guards, Blatche at center, and Miller and Fabricio Oberto at forwards.The new Wizards lineup responded with a 30 point first quarter including 22 points in the paint. The bright start prevented the Rockets from getting their first lead until midway through the second quarter. It was an intensely competitive game. The Rockets biggest lead was only four points and the Wizards biggest advantage only 6 points. Each team played through individual struggles.For the Wizards, Miller had several good looks but only shot 4 of 15 from the field. Still he finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds and gave the Wizards their last hope when he tipped in a Young miss to pull the Wizards to within two points at 96-94 with 5.1 seconds left in the fourth.The Wizards did a good job of keeping the tempo under control With Aaron Brooks at the points, the Rockets like to run but only had 12 fast break points. Brooks did have 11 assists butwas 5 of 20 from the field as he struggled when defended by Quinton Ross.Like the Rockets had Budinger off the bench, the Wizards received a boost from JaVale McGee. In six minutes in the fourth quarter McGee made sure the Wizards did not collapse when he scored 10 points and had 5 rebounds.We have been resilient, Saunders added. It is a process. We are not talking about wins or losses. We are talking about trying to play the right way. Tonight we played the right way for most of the game but didnt when it counted the most.