Rockets-Wizards Preview

Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale knows he can’t keep leaning

so much on starting guards Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin.

A game against the NBA-worst Washington Wizards could be the

perfect chance for those two to take a much-needed break.

The Rockets go for a third straight victory Monday in the

nation’s capital, where they open a stretch of three games in four

days.

After Lowry and Martin combined for 38 points – and nearly 80

minutes – in Friday’s 103-89 victory over Sacramento, the Rockets

backcourt duo each played 49 minutes against Portland on Saturday

in a 107-105 overtime win.

Lowry, who finished with 33 points, nine assists and eight

rebounds, has logged 41 minutes or more in four consecutive games

since missing two with a foot injury. He is averaging a team-high

37.0 minutes.

Martin, scoring 17.3 points per game, is second on the Rockets

(5-7) with 35.6 minutes per game.

“They’re playing too many minutes – we’ve got to give them more

rest, there’s no doubt,” McHale said after his team won

back-to-back games for the first time. “But while they’re getting

that rest we’ve got to be able to maintain leads and expand

leads.”

Houston has led by at least 10 points in each of the last five

games, but has won just three of those.

Improved play from his reserves could give McHale the luxury of

giving his starters a breather.

Saturday was a good start as Chase Budinger scored a season-best

18 points and Jordan Hill added seven with seven rebounds.

The Rockets, who host Detroit on Tuesday and New Orleans two

days later, have lost six of seven on the road. Houston had won

five straight in Washington prior to a 98-91 loss Nov. 10,

2010.

Wizards point guard John Wall had his first triple-double in

that game with 19 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds.

Wall nearly recorded another one Saturday with 19 points, nine

assists and nine boards, but he also had a season-worst eight

turnovers in a 103-90 loss to Philadelphia.

The second-year point guard, though, committed just one of those

miscues in the final 24 minutes.

“That was the best half of basketball he’s played with us so

far, distributing the ball, scoring, being aggressive,” said coach

Flip Saunders, who was hired by McHale – his former teammate at the

University of Minnesota – to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves in

1995. “… As I told him afterward, we need that from him for 48

(minutes), because as a point guard, you’re always the leader.”

While Saunders needs Wall and Nick Young to step up against

Lowry and Martin, the Wizards’ frontcourt trio of Trevor Booker,

Chris Singleton and Rashard Lewis has to improve after scoring

eight combined points on 4-of-22 shooting Saturday.

Their efforts are especially important given that Wizards

forward Andray Blatche could miss a fourth consecutive game with a

sprained right shoulder. He averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds

– both team highs – as Washington and Houston split the season

series in 2010-11.

Washington center JaVale McGee blocked five shots Saturday and

finished with a season-high 23 points and a career high-tying 18

boards.

Houston has outrebounded its last four opponents by an average

of 11.5. Samuel Dalembert leads the Rockets with 43 boards during

this stretch, while Luis Scola has 33.

Scola averaged 19.0 points and 4.5 rebounds against Washington

last season.

Martin led the Rockets with 51 points in those contests.