John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 68 points tonight in a vintage House of Guards game as Washington was able to overcome 54 points from James Harden and beat Houston in an overtime thriller, 135-131.
Washington’s bench combined for 45 points led by Markieff Morris with 22 points and 10 rebounds as Washington wins their second straight game over a Western Conference foe.
Houston, and more specifically, Eric Gordon came out smoking hot to start this one. The Rockets started the game 10-14 from the field including knocking down all six three-point attempts as Houston raced out to an early 27-10 lead forcing Scott Brooks to burn two early timeouts. For the third time this season, Washington surrendered 40+ points in the first quarter and it felt like this one had the makings of a blowout.
Things changed for Washington in the second quarter when they inserted their reserve unit and started pushing the ball. Some tic-tac-toe passing from Wall to Beal to Morris ended up in a dunk late in the second quarter as the Wizards used a 12-2 run to regain the lead 67-65 into the break.
James Harden put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. First, it was step back three-pointers, then knocking down threes even while getting fouled; and if the Wizards crowded him? He’d drive right by for the layup. Harden scored 21 points in the period as the Rockets regained the lead 98-94 entering the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, James Harden did his dance, stepped back for three and knocked down yet another three-pointer and got fouled giving him 50 points on the night as Houston took a 121-117 lead looking to bury the Wizards. But Washington wouldn’t go away. Big three-pointers from Morris and Beal allowed the Wizards to retake the lead and Porter could have put the nail in the coffin as he had a wide-open three with the Wizards up one but it rimmed out.
John Wall would get stripped on the final play of regulation and after five ties and five lead changes in the quarter alone, we’d be going to overtime.
Washington locked down defensively in the overtime period as Houston didn’t score their first basket until the 1:35 mark of the period. After a few tough shots from John Wall, Otto Porter picked off James Harden and threw a touchdown pass to Beal for the dunk icing the game.
Washington overcomes Harden’s 54 points to beat Houston, 135-131 in overtime.
The Wizards can get stops when they want to
It feels very weird to write this as Washington surrendered 131 points tonight but there were stretches where the Wizards played some very sound defense, specifically, towards the end of the fourth quarter and in the overtime periods.
Bradley Beal did a terrific job limiting Harden’s damage, as everyone in the arena knew that he’d try to take over late. Beal crowded Harden forcing him to take some very tough shots (some he made but you just have to tip your cap in that instance).
In the overtime period, Washington was able to hold Houston to just one point until the 1:35 mark with many key stops and forcing some opportune turnovers.
This is what makes the Wizards so frustrating. They were able to play outstanding defense for 3-4 minute stretches tonight and really forced Houston to work for their shots. But then, there were plenty of moments where it was clear that defense was the last thing on their minds. If Washington could lock in defensively for the entire 48 minutes, as they’ve shown glimpses that they are capable of doing, they’d be a very good basketball team. Instead, they find themselves surrendering 120+ points per night and with an 8-12 record.
The bench has proven to be a huge motivator for Markieff Morris
Just four games ago, Markieff Morris was relegated to the bench for his subpar play. Since the lineup shakeup from Brooks, the Wizards have gone 3-1 and it seems to have lit a fire under Morris as he’s playing his best basketball over the season culminating tonight with a 22-point and 10 rebound performance on 8-12 shooting including going 3-4 from three-point range.
Even though Morris came off the bench tonight, he outplayed Kelly Oubre, the guy who replaced him in the starting lineup by 21 minutes. Morris was on the floor in crunch time including the end of regulation and the entire overtime period, when it mattered most.
The reason Morris has been so frustrating for Wizards fans is that he’s capable of nights like this but far too often turns in clunkers of a performance. The irony here is if he continues to play this well off the bench, will Brooks reinsert him back into the starting lineup or keep things put?