Dave Johnson: Wizards suffer again on the road

Dave Johnson: Wizards suffer again on the road
December 28, 2010, 4:07 am
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Monday, December 27, 2010 11:23 pm

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By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comHouston---With a 10-point fourth quarterlead there was hope and every reason to believe this would be the Wizards night on the road. That hope turned to despair when the Wizards unraveled at the end of a 100-93 loss to the Houston Rockets.The Rockets closed the game on an 8-0 run to hand the Wizards their franchise record-tying 15th consecutive road loss. The loss matches the old mark set by the 992000 Wizards, but comes at a time when the Wizards having been showing signs of improvement. Against the Rockets, a team that averages over 105 points per game, the Wizards almost held an opponent below 100 points for a sixth consecutive game. In addition, the Wizards are getting reinforcements with return of players like John Wall and Josh Howard from injury, but what this team sorely needs is positive reinforcement in the form of a victory.To be sure it was there for the taking. With 3:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, Andray Blatche sliced along the baseline and completed a reverse layup to give the Wizards a 93-92 lead. The Rockets then seized the game with the help of Wizards.The Wizards failed to score in the final 3:32 of the game because of a combination of miscues and missed shots. In those closing minutes, the Wizards missed on four shot attempts within eight feet of the basket and committed three turnovers. In short there were good looks and chances.Its frustrating to come so close but not be able to close, said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. At those critical moments its like we try to do too much or take shots too fast instead of trusting the offense like we did all night.The Rockets were led in scoring by Kevin Martin with 20 points. It was Martin who scored the games final points when he hit a three point shot with 1:50 left. Aaron Brooks also helped the Rockets close by scoring 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Brooks, who missed six weeks with an ankle sprain, is being used off the Rockets bench.Kirk Hinrich led the Wizards with 19 points, but finished with zero assists as he often was in the backcourt at the same time as John Wall. In his second game back, after missing five games with bruised knee, Wall was more assertive in running the offense and had 6 assists to go with 13 points in 27 minutesWall did not start as the Wizards monitor his minutes, but they still used their 14th starting lineup of the season. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee both returned from one game suspension and to the starting lineup while Rashard Lewis started at small forward ahead of Al ThorntonLewis was rewarded with a start for his 21 point, 12 rebound game against the Spurs and almost had a double against the Rockets with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Blatche had 17 points and 14 rebounds.While the Wizards have struggled to close games, they are proving to be more resilient. Having won seven straight games at home, the Rockets opened with energy and confidence as they built a nine-point first quarter lead. Instead of folding the Wizards pushed back with a 10-2 run to close the quarter.The Wizards late first quarter surge set the stage for an entertaining game that featured 14 ties and 15 lead changes. At half-time the Wizards had a 48-47 lead and then built a five point lead at the end of the third quarter on the strength of Walls aggressive play.Wall attacked the basket in the third quarter when he was 6 of 6 from the free throw line. As a team the Wizards were 11 of 12 from the line in the third quarter. The Wizards continued their impressive play in the fourth quarter and enjoyed an 82-72 lead with 10:01 remaining in the game.Hopefully now that we have some of these guys back, we can keep them back, Saunders said. What we need now is some continuity so we can have a chance to build on some of the positive things we are doing as a team>