Wizards fend off Houston's offensive barrage

Wizards fend off Houston's offensive barrage
February 23, 2013, 11:45 pm
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Emeka Okafor recorded his 14th double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds and Bradley Beal came up with some late game heroics in the Wizards 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Okafor made the go ahead free throw with 5.2 seconds left but missed the second. Luckily for the Wizards rookie Bradley Beal came up with a heady play tracking down the offensive rebound, securing the victory for Washington.

“I thought Asik was going to box me out,” said Beal who is averaging 21 points in the three games since All-Star break. "I kind of disguised it like I wasn’t gonna go in. Most bigs, they don’t ever box out a guard. It was a long rebound and I just ended jumping up for it. I was in the right place at the right time I guess.”

Houston began the game by shooting the lights out. The Rockets knocked down 13 three pointers in the first half. To put that in perspective, entering Saturday the most three pointers by a Wizards opponent in an entire game was 13 by the San Antonio Spurs back on November 26.

Their hot shooting led to a 17-point lead. But at halftime Randy Wittman made an adjustment going small to better match up with Houston’s shooters. After making 13 three-pointers in the first half the Wizards held the Rockets to just six of 18 from three point land in the second half.

“We knew with James (Harden) basically handling the ball, him and Jeremy Lin, they do a good job of having four shooters out on the floor and one big,” said John Wall who had his second straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. “It was tough for us having to get in, and close out to their shooters. We just wanted to make it tough and make them make contested shots. In the second half, we kinda got into it defensively and they missed a couple and we executed on the other end.”

In late game situations most teams hand the ball to their star player and let him dictate the outcome of the game. In the Wizards case they don’t have that one player you can count on for a basket. But this time they were able to play the match ups. Houston essentially plays with four guards and one big man and the Wizards were able to exploit that down the stretch.

“I went big with 21 seconds at the end of the game, and I said whoever has the smallest defender on them that’s who I want the ball to go to, said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “I’m a firm believer in going at mismatches, and the flow of the game. I felt Emeka Okafor played outstanding, and he was doing a great job when he got the ball down there. I coach by feel; I don’t have a set play we will go to every time. Houston stayed small all game long and I just decided to go big and it worked out well.”

Saturday’s win was the Wizards 10th win in their last 12 games at Verizon Center, and their sixth in their last eight games overall. They’ve yet to translate that success into wins on the road. Their next chance will come on Tuesday when they can payback a Toronto team that beat them 96-88 earlier this week at Verizon Center.

“When we are on the road, we don’t play the same way we need to when we are at home, playing as a team,” said Wall. “We all know what it takes now, we all understand. To finish the season the way we want to, we need to do a better job. We owe Toronto because we didn’t have the best game that we’ve had of our season. I had a terrible game leading my team, and other guys didn’t step up. We know what we need to do to stop them.”