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Wizards storm back to stun Rockets 123-122: Five takeaways


Wizards storm back to stun Rockets 123-122: Five takeaways

HOUSTON -- Still with no answer for James Harden, the Wizards found a way to overcome him by putting eight players in double figures and coming from behind to erase a six-point deficit late in the fourth to win 123-122 Saturday at Toyota Center.

The Rockets (25-25) had two chances to win it at the end with 10 seconds left, with Harden driving on Bradley Beal but overshooting the rim because of help defense from Jared Dudley and John Wall's block attempt over the op. Josh Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and couldn't put it back as Wall took that rebound and threw the ball in the air to let the clock expire. 

The Wizards (21-24) were led by John Wall (19 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds), Ramon Sessions (17 points), Jared Dudley (16 points, five rebounds, five assists), Marcin Gortat (13 points, 11 rebounds), Gary Neal (12 points), Bradley Beal (11 points) and Garrett Temple (11 points).

Harden had a game-high 40 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, followed by Dwight Howard (20 points, seven rebounds), Trevor Ariza (17 points) and Patrick Beverley (15 points). Beverely wasn't able to foul Wall before he tossed the ball down the court on the final play.

The win ended a three-game skid for Washington, which had a players-only meeting called by Dudley after a home loss to the Denver Nuggets.

  • Dudley was back in the starting lineup as they went away from the traditional two bigs with Nene and Gortat. Howard had 13 points in the first quarter but when Nene came in his streak ended quick. Too strong and too good on position defense. Tensions got out of hand, however, when the two got tangled. Howard was hit with an first-quarter technical foul for tussling with Dudley. Then after he squared off with Nene at 8:08 of fourth, Howard shoved him and was instantly hit with another. Nene was assessed a double technical foul. 
  • Down 116-110, coach Randy Wittman went to an effective strategy of putting Clint Capela on the foul line starting at 3:06. It worked as they were able to tie the score at 117 on a three by Wall.
  • Harden was efficient like he was when making 13 of 23 shots in the Dec. 9 meeting when he had 42 points. He was allowed to catch the ball when and where he wanted to and he danced with it. The Wizards didn't trap him hard and he was able to get to his spots, force the switches he wanted knowing that their simplified coverages would be a liability. Temple drew most of the assignment and the Wizards tried to take the ball out of his hands but Harden was hitting contested threes like on one was there. His sixth one put the Rockets up 113-107 before Washington made its run. Temple fouled out with 32 seconds left but the Wizards compensated with team defense. Harden made 12 of 20 shots in this one. That's a total of 58% accuracy in two games vs. Washington.
  • Porter, who had to leave the previous game because of tightness in his back, started but only played six minutes in the first half. He was looking for his shot and only had five points but rookie Kelly Oubre didn't get any time beyond spot minutes. Porter rode an exercise bike in the tunnel during the second half to stay loose. He finished with nine points in just 13 minutes and wasn't on the floor to end the game. 
  • Sessions exploded for 12 points in the third. He made all four of his shots, including two three-pointers, and had a steal and assist on a go-ahead three by Dudley for an 85-84 edge. The Wizards don't suffer offensively when Sessions comes in for Wall, who picked up his fourth foul with xxx left in the third. The Wizards were averaging 102 points per 100 possessions, according to the NBA's SVU player tracking data, heading into the game.

MORE WIZARDS: Nene, Howard ejected after 4th quarter scuffle

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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

Former NBA player J.J. Hickson faces charges of armed robbery after breaking into a home near Atlanta, stealing $100,000 from the house, and physically assaulting a teenager who was inside, authorities said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hickson, who played eight seasons in the NBA with four teams before his brief appearance in Washington, is currently being held in Coweta County Jail without bond. 

He is currently affiliated with the Lebanese Basketball League but played 15 games with the Wizards during the 2015-16 season. Hickson averaged 4.6 ppg and scored a season-high 15 points against the Nets in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has not played professionally in the United States since.  Hickson played just one season at North Carolina State before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 19 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Jimmy Yarbrough, the sheriff's spokesperson in Coweta, said that while at least two people were involved in the invasion, only Hickson is being held and charged.

According to authorities, Hickson entered through a side door, armed with a knife and his face and head covered. He was initially apprehended by another department and later transferred into the custody of Coweta County law enforcement. 

At this time in the investigation, very little detail is publicly available.

The teenage victim, whose name remains private, received medical treatment for several broken bones and is fortunately in good condition.