As good as the opening 12 minutes were for the Wizards, the third quarter vs. the Houston Rockets turned out to be a disaster that flipped the momentum of the game. A loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second game of a back-to-back tonight would constitute two steps back but they're still in a good spot to get back to .500.
The Wizards, who have won eight in a row at Verizon Center, are just 3-11 on the road after Monday's 101-91 loss vs. a potent offensive team.
"We play for 48 minutes at home," said John Wall, who had 18 points and 12 assists for his 21st double-double. "On the road we play for 24 minutes sometimes, sometimes 32. We got to play for the full 48. When we figure that out, when we don't have the crowd behind us on the road and we're not making shots we still got to defend at a high level."
Bradley Beal led the Wizards (16-17) with 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting but he could've had more had he looked more for his shot. There were opportunities as the Rockets were slow to close him out on pindowns from Marcin Gortat.
The Wizards held them to 14 points in the first quarter, a season low, but the outcome turned after halftime when Washington lost a 53-41 lead.
"I thought we had too many mitsakes defensively and they capitalized with threes. I think they made seven threes in that quarter. Then we had six turnovers," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "The combination of both those things happening created that 37-17 quarter. I thought we played a pretty good game throughout the game. You just take away seven or eight minutes in that third quarter."
The lead quickly evaporated because of the giveaways. The Wizards had 17 that led to 15 points for Houston which isn't noted for its defensive prowess. But to start the third quarter there was no rhythm to the Wizards' offense because of the uneven sets in the halfcourt. The transition buckets dried up as well.
"We didn't come out with the same intensity offensively. We knew there was going to be a time in the game when they were going to make shots," Wall said. "We weren't being as aggressive. They were trying to trap me and Brad and get the ball out of our hands."
As well as the Wizards' bench has played in recent games, including 50 points in a blowout of the Brooklyn Nets last weekend, they needed more from them than 13 points against an elite West team. Eric Gordon, a starter for his career until he signed with Houston as a free agent, had 31 of the Rockets' 42. He made 6 of 12 from deep.
"Sometimes we would rotate for no reason. Be in the lane when we shouldn't have been," said Beal. "We gave up some easy catch-and-shoot threes that anybody in the league can make."