Tuesday, March 9, 2010 9:44pm
By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comWashington---It was not a beauty contest. The Houston Rockets only shot 38 percent from the field, but were more aggressive on the boards and made more free-throws to pull out a 96-88 win over the Washington Wizards.The Rockets are the fifth-best offensive rebounding team in the NBA and it helped save them against the Wizards. The Rockets finished with 16 offensive rebounds and a 24-8 advantage in second chance points.Luis Scola continued his impressive play and led the Rockets with 23 points and ten rebounds. Over the last four games Scola has averaged 21-points and 16-rebounds and not only was a big factor on the offensive glass for the Rockets, but displayed an array of low post moves using both his left and right hands. The challenge Scola provided the Wizards in the paint helped the Rockets gain an advantage at the free-throw line. Scola was seven of eight on free throws and as a team the Rockets were 24 of 28 from the line. The Wizards only had 16 free throw attempts but made 15 of them.Some of the swagger was back for the Wizards Nick Young as he came off the bench to score a team-high 18-points on 6 of 13 shooting from the field. In the previous five games Young had only made4 shots in 21 attempts.He played with some more energy, said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. What he has got to do now is play with that much energy whether he is making shots or not. Making shots cannot dictate how hard he plays. The only thing that is constant is how hard you play. After a promising start the Wizards struggled to move the ball and make the Rockets defense work. Andray Blatche also led the Wizards with 18 points, but in his zeal to spark a slumbering offense there were mistakes. Blatche committed five turnovers and was9 of 22 from the field.It was just all me. It wasnt like they were doing a super double team, Blatche said. Chuck Hayes (Rockets center) is a big strong guy I was trying to back him down but he wasnt moving. I kept trying to fight harder and harder but it just made it worse for me.It started well for the Wizards. They had seven assists on their first ten field goals and built a 22-15 leadwith 2:10 left in the first quarter. The Rockets then seemed to get energy from their bench and by halftime had turned a seven point deficit into a 48-40 lead.The Rockets were awful from three-point distance, shooting 6 of 28, but Trevor Ariza, part of the Rockets bench boost, made three of those shots beyond the arc and finished with 13 points. Also off the bench Jordan Hill added 11 points and had four offensive rebounds.In the third quarter the Wizards were their own enemy. Almost five minutes into the second half the Wizards had only managed to score four points while committing four turnovers. Still for all the Wizards woes they were only outscored in the third by three points and still had a chance going to the final quarter.With the offense stuck, the Wizards turned to Shaun Livingston to run the point for most of the second half. Livingston finished with five assists in his twenty minutes and helped the Wizards outscore the Rockets 28-25 in the fourth quarter.Livingston also hit a 16-foot jump shot with 1:12 remaining to bring the Wizards to within six points at 92-86.He got us into an offense, Saunders noted. It was the best flow we had in the game during the end of the fourth quarter. Its the first time hes played extended minutes. We will see how he reacts tomorrow with his leg, and we will see what we do as far as Thursday. The Wizards next game is Thursday at home against Atlanta. It is the make up of the game postponed by the blizzard in early February. For the Wizards it is also the start of three games in three nights before a west coast trip.Its the Rock Star tour, Saunders added. The next five games are against teams that fighting to get to second, third or those types of seeds. Detroit is not, but Atlanta and Orlando are. Then we go on the road to Utah, Denver, Portland and Los Angeles and they are all fighting down the stretch.
Check out our Rockets-Wizards photo gallery from Bob Youngentob here