Washington Wizards Preview: 3 Keys To Beating The Houston Rockets


Washington Wizards Return Home To Meet The Houston Rockets

The Washington Wizards are coming off one of their most impressive victories of the season thus far — a road win against the first seeded Miami Heat on the road. The undermanned Wizards went to Miami with a slim chance of winning, but came out on top despite missing Marcin Gortat and Nene.

On Wednesday night, the Wizards will have Gortat back in the lineup. The Polish Machine will be back in the nation’s capital after spending time with his ailing mother back home. Washington has succeeded with the super small-ball lineup, but it’ll be great to have Gortat back on the court.

With that said, the Wizards have been disappointing after securing impressive victories this season.

After beating the San Antonio Spurs, the Washington Wizards followed it up with a letdown performance. They beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road, then followed that up with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at home. Now, after beating the Heat in Miami, they need to stop the negative trend at home.

Here’s what they need to do to get another solid win at home over the Houston Rockets, who’ve been struggling mightily this season:

Beat Pace With Pace

The Washington Wizards are currently fourth in pace, just below the Golden State Warriors. They outran the Heat and there was nothing they could do to stop Washington’s up-tempo offense. Whenever the Wizards got the ball, they pushed it and got efficient shots as a result.

John Wall, in particular, has looked wonderful in the new offense. It’s taken him some time to adjust, but it looks like he’s finally made the necessary changes. Instead of running straight to the basket and hoping there’s a teammate out on the perimeter, Wall is starting to make calculated moves and is finding his teammates for open looks.

The Rockets are top-10 in pace as well. They’re going to run. In fact, they were one of the first teams in the NBA to really start focusing on the new pace-and-space offense that everyone is trying to implement nowadays. Ty Lawson, James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard all have the tools to rip defenses apart.

Washington has to continue playing at their ridiculous pace. Fight fire with fire.

Take Advantage Of Bad Defense

It’s rare to find a team that’s focused on playing fast and actually plays defense on the opposite end of the floor. The Warriors are the exception, but they’re the Warriors.

The Rockets, like the Wizards, have been a horrendous defensive team this season.

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As bad as the Wizards have been defensively, the Rockets have found a way to be worse.

They’re currently the third worst defensive team in the NBA.

The Wizards are six slots better, which doesn’t mean much.

Regardless, the Rockets are going to give up plenty of opportunities to score and they won’t do much to stop the opposition from doing so.

Patrick Beverley might be the only exceptional perimeter defender on their roster. Howard and Clint Capela provide rim protection, but they’re often forced to recover and help.

Washington’s guards have to play relentless ball, just like they did against the Heat. Wall and Bradley Beal have to continue attacking the basket. On Wednesday night, they’ll actually have Gortat available for drop off passes and pick-and-rolls. If things go according to plan, the Wizards shouldn’t have much of a difficulty scoring the ball.

Stop The Star

The Washington Wizards have been getting lit up by stars this season. Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and even Kobe Bryant had great games against Washington. The Rockets’ star — James Harden — has been rather inconsistent this season, but he was the runner-up MVP this past year.

Beal is going to be tasked with defending Harden, whom the Wizards reportedly decided not to trade for when the shooting guard was still in Oklahoma City. Ernie Grunfeld thought Beal would eventually become better than Harden, and while that will be incredibly difficult to achieve, the 22-year-old is finally playing at an All-Star level this season.

Beal has shown that he’s capable of scoring against the best, so now it’s time to step it up on the defensive end of the floor. Harden is one of the toughest players in the league to defend. He’s crafty and frustrating. Beal has to stop him from taking over, because the rest of the stars have taken advantage of Washington’s poor defense this season.

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Washington has to build on their win over the Heat. The Rockets are below .500 and have been one of the most surprisingly bad teams in the NBA this season, but they still look great on paper. Beating them at home could be huge for Washington’s momentum going forward.