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.
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