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Takeaways from Wizards' blown lead in road loss to Rockets

Takeaways from Wizards' blown lead in road loss to Rockets

The goal to keep James Harden in check worked almost to perfection for the Wizards even though he still had his third consecutive triple-double, but they had no answer for Eric Gordon as the Houston Rockets erased a 15-point deficit to win 101-91 on Monday at Toyota Center.

The Rockets (27-9) win the season series 2-0 and the Wizards (16-17) open a two-game road trip with a hard-fought loss that easily could’ve been a victory.

Bradley Beal (27 points) led Washington followed by John Wall (18 points, 12 assists, five rebounds), Markieff Morris (12 points, eight rebounds, three assists) and Marcin Gortat (13 points, 14 rebounds). Otto Porter (eight points) only shot 4-for-12 from the field.

Harden (23 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) wasn’t effective early but Eric Gordon (31 points) set his season-high to lead the Rockets shooting 12-for-39 from three-point range. Montrezl Harrell (14 points, nine rebounds) and Trevor Ariza (10 points) also chipped in.

The Wizards play Tuesday at the Dallas Mavericks.

--Beal played after missing the last game with a right ankle sprain and did his best to keep the Wizards alive late. The only player to make a three for the Wizards other than Beal was Marcus Thornton (seven points). They were 6-for-26 overall.

--Morris went mostly uncovered and couldn’t make them. Neither could Porter or Gortat. The Rockets sometimes botched coverages on threes and were willing to sacrifice two-pointers by having Anderson defend a 6-11 center in the low post for long stretches. Gortat had a good boxscore game, but he could've/should've done more damage. Porter scored 12 points fewer than he did in the first meeting, a 114-106 loss on Nov. 7, when he was defended a lot by Harden. 

--Gordon outscored the Wizards’ bench alone which had just 13 points. Kelly Oubre’s main responsibility, however, was guarding Harden and not scoring. He had seven rebounds and two steals, one of which led to Morris getting out in transition for a dunk to tie the score at 82 in the fourth. 

--The lead got away from the Wizards to start the third with four turnovers by 8:35. Those empty possessions plus Gordon's threes put the Rockets back in it (he shot 6-for-12 for the game). It wasn’t until late in the third that Harden made his first three, in transition off a make by Washington, to trim the deficit to 66-65. The Rockets shot 7-for-10 from three in the third which proved to be the turning point.

--Nene (nine points) was key to the comeback. The Rockets weren’t as effective with the pick-and-roll with Harden and Anderson. Nene entered, converted and covered the rim. Out of timeout, Nene’s dunk off a feed from Harden gave Houston its first lead 67-66. Nene blocked Porter on a drive to deny a dunk, popped for a mid-range jumper and then had a layup for a 71-66 lead in a 9-0 run. The Rockets led 78-70 entering the fourth.

--Harden only had six points in the first half when he shot 2-for-11 and their switches had a lot to do with it. Beal and Morris were especially connected and didn’t put him on the foul line. Harden only attempted two fouls shots in the first 24 minutes. Beal was able to close out Anderson in a switch with Morris to force the ball out of his hands (and not bite the shot fake) to force a shot-clock violation. All of this was set up by ball pressure. Although the Rockets will launch shots from anywhere, they weren’t able to step into threes as easily as they’d like. Harden, however, finished 9 of 10 from the foul line which is how he broke the 20-point mark despite being 6-for-24 shooting.

--The Rockets were held to a season-low 14 points in first quarter. They were 0-for-8 on three-point shots and didn’t have any makes from the foul line. They only had 41 at halftime, which was seven fewer than the lowest output for December when the Wizards went 10-5. The Rockets shot 2-for-17 shooting from three in the first 24 minutes. The first-half season low by the Wizards for an opponent is 38 vs. the Orlando Magic on Nov. 25.

RELATED: Wizards develop real home-court edge

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Wizards Summer League superlatives: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. were the stars

Wizards Summer League superlatives: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. were the stars

The 2019 Las Vegas Summer League is in the books and this one was much more interesting for the Wizards than they have been in recent years. This year, they had a host of first and second-round picks play for them, as well as some players they recently acquired in their trade with the Lakers.

Here are some superlatives to put a bow on the Wizards' time in Vegas...

Best player: Troy Brown Jr.

Though he only played one game and one quarter before he was shut down with a left knee contusion, Brown was quite clearly the best player on the Wizards' Summer League roster. In his only full game, he put up 18 points and 15 rebounds. Though he only shot 40.6 percent in his brief time in Vegas, he looked like a guy who was advanced beyond the league's level of competition.

For Brown, the question is how much it matters because he essentially did what he should do as a second-year player. It is encouraging and he should draw confidence from the experience. But now he has to show he can produce like that in real NBA games.

Best newcomer: Rui Hachimura

Hachimura only played three of the Wizards' five games and in his first two outings produced uneven results. But his third game was pure dominance, as he posted 25 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He proved a quick learner by adjusting and improving game-by-game.

All in all, it was a solid start to Hachimura's career. He displayed versatility and smarts both on offense and defense. It should give Wizards fan hope he can contribute as a rookie.

Most improved: Isaac Bonga

Many of the players on the Wizards' roster were not returning from last summer, but Bonga showed a nice leap year-over-year from what he did for the Lakers in 2018. Though he wasn't one of the Wizards' best players, he ended up with solid numbers of 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot 45.5 percent from the field in 20.2 minutes of action.

The best thing Bonga showed for the Wizards is his athleticism. He is a full 6-foot-9, yet has the mobility of a guard. He is a long ways away from being NBA-ready, but at 19 years old gives the Wizards an intriguing prospect to stash in the G-League.

Needs improvement: Issuf Sanon, Moe Wagner, Admiral Schofield

It wasn't the best Summer League showing for Sanon, the Wizards' 2018 second-round pick. He only played a total of 48 minutes in four games and shot 18.2 percent with 1.5 points per game. The Wizards were experimenting with his position, playing him both at point and off the ball, and he didn't look comfortable doing either.

Granted, Sanon's biggest strength at this point is his defense, but he doesn't seem to have any NBA-ready offensive skills. Unless he gets up to speed quickly, he will have to become really, really good on defense to make the leap overseas.

Like Bonga, Wagner debuted after coming over in the Lakers trade. But Wagner didn't have the best time in Las Vegas, as he shot just 31 percent from the field and 7.1 percent from three. It was a small sample size of just four games, but Wagner is known as a shooter and didn't look like one in the Summer League. He also had trouble on defense against quicker match-ups.

Schofield, the Wizards' 2019 second-round pick, shot poorly (38.5 FG%, 22.2 3PT%) and struggled to find his role on defense. He has some intriguing qualities, but it might take him some time to figure out how to compete against NBA athletes while lacking height and quickness to play the way he did in college.

Biggest surprise: Jemerrio Jones

Perhaps this should not be surprising because it is what Jones is known for, but his rebounding really stood out. He played only about 27 minutes in three games, yet pulled in 13 boards. That breaks out to 4.3 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game, or about one rebound every other minute. He averaged 17.4 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Keep in mind he is only 6-foot-5. Based on efficiency, Jones was the Wizards' best rebounder and he is the size of a shooting guard. He has a lot to improve on before he can stick around in the NBA, but it will be fun watching him grab 15-plus boards on the regular this season with the Go-Go. 

Biggest disappointment: Wizards' opponents

If there was one prevailing theme in the 2019 Summer League it was teams holding out their top draft picks either due to actual injuries or the fear they will suffer one. The Wizards saw this firsthand. They even did it themselves by keeping Hachimura out of two of their games.

The Wizards played the Pelicans without first overall pick Zion Williamson or Jaxson Hayes, the eighth pick, or even Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the 17th pick. They played the Hawks without De'Andre Hunter (fourth pick) or Cam Reddish (10th pick). And the Nets and Clippers didn't have any top draft picks of note.

The Wizards did get to see third overall pick R.J. Barrett and the Knicks in their final game. New York also had Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox, as well as Iggy Brazdeikis, who was a Summer League standout. But neither Hachimura or Brown played in that game for Washington.

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Rui Hachimura was a star in Vegas, earning All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors

Rui Hachimura was a star in Vegas, earning All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors

Welcome to the Wizards Rui Hachimura.

In his first action as a Washington Wizard, the first-round draft pick brought home some hardware after being named to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team.

Hachimura showed out in a Summer League that was headlined by which stars were not playing on the court. In his final contest against the Atlanta Hawks, Hachimura dominated the court.

Playing a total of three games in Las Vegas, he averaged 19.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Those stats paired with a 2-1 record in the games he played garnered the Second Team honor. 

He was joined by Chris Boucher (Toronto), Jaxson Hayes (New Orleans), Anfernee Simons (Portland) and Lonie Walker IV (San Antonio) on the Second Team. 

The Gonzaga product is looking to become the best Japanese player to step onto an NBA basketball court and, although it is a small sample size, he showed some major potential in his limited action. 

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