Much of the reasoning for why the Wizards traded for veteran forward Trevor Ariza this past weekend was to plug the holes in their three-point defense. After 31 games this season, Washington ranks 26th among NBA teams in three-pointers allowed per game and 27th in opponents three-point percentage.
On Wednesday, the Wizards will receive the ultimate test for their revamped perimeter defense in the Houston Rockets. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.
The Rockets are not simply a good three-point shooting team in the context of this era, they rival some of the best outside shooting teams of all-time. Their 14 threes made per game are top in the NBA and are tied for the third-most in league history.
The top two teams ever in made threes were also the Rockets. They set the all-time record in 2016-17 with 14.4, then beat their own mark last season with 15.3 threes per game.
It's a similar story for threes attempted. Houston leads the league with 41.1 three-point shots per game. That would rank second all-time behind only last season's Rockets (42.3/g) and ahead of the third-most ever (40.3) set by Houston the year before.
The difference this season has been their percentage. After ranking 13th in the NBA last year at 36.2 percent, this time they are shooting just 33.9 percent, good for 24th. Still, no team takes or makes more threes, and the Wizards will be charged with stopping them.
The Wizards know the Rockets' three-point shooting prowess well. Houston has made at least 12 threes in the last seven meetings between the teams. Four times in that span, they have hit 15 threes or more. No team has done that more often against the Wizards since the start of the 2015-16 season. Considering they play each other only twice a year as members of different conferences, that is telling.
Ariza is also familiar with what the Rockets are capable of. After leaving Washington in free agency in the summer of 2014, he signed with Houston and spent four seasons there before joining the Suns this past summer. He was a key cog in the Rockets' 65-win team last season, as they fell one win short of the NBA Finals.
The Wizards and Rockets also saw each other less than a month ago in Washington. The Wizards pulled off a 135-131 victory in overtime, one of their best wins of the season, even with Houston off to a disappointing start.
Chris Paul didn't play in that game, but James Harden dropped 54 points and Eric Gordon and Clint Capela were a handful. John Wall had 36 points and 11 assists and Bradley Beal put in 32 points, as well as some timely defense down the stretch on Harden. He helped force several of Harden's 11 turnovers.
Now comes the rematch, this time with the Rockets fresh off four straight wins and with Paul set to play. It won't be easy beating Houston twice in one season, something they haven't done as a franchise since 1988-89. Perhaps Ariza can help make the difference.
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