Washington Wizards Three Takeaways: Wizards Fall Apart Against Houston Rockets

Washington Wizards had the opportunity to get their most impressive win of the season against the Houston Rockets, but fell apart in the second half.

Prior to Monday’s contest in Houston, the Washington Wizards had just three wins away from home under their belt.

While the team has played well as of late – the Wizards won 10 of their 15 games in December – they’ve failed to win games on the road, which is a solid indicator of true improvement.

Washington gained a double-digit lead against the Rockets early in the first half and looked as if they would coast to their most impressive road win of the season. The Rockets, who are notorious for their defensive struggles, didn’t even attempt to contest shots.

John Wall got to the basket with minimal resistance and the Rockets missed open looks from deep.

But a run was inevitable.

Given the offensive firepower Houston rolls with, it was only a matter of time before the Wizards were tasked with maintaining a lead.

In the second half, the Rocket started to hit the shots they were missing in the first two quarters.

Eric Gordon lit the team up, knocking down six 3-point shots off the bench. He single-handedly carried the Rockets, scoring 31 points in 36 minutes off the bench.

Washington tried to answer Houston’s offense with 3-point shots of their own, but couldn’t buy a basket.

The Wizards hit just six of their 26 attempts from deep. Bradley Beal made five of them.

Washington scored just 38 points in the second half. The Rockets scored 37 in the third quarter alone.

Scott Brooks‘ team has fallen back below .500 with the 101-91 loss in Houston.

Brooks tries to mix it up, but fails

The coaching staff in Washington doesn’t have much to work with, as evidenced by the second unit’s struggles this season. Some coaches have the luxury of bringing starting-quality players off the bench, allowing them to mix up their rotations to give the opposition different looks.

Brooks doesn’t have that luxury, like, at all.

Otto Porter never found a rhythm against the Rockets and missed open looks from the perimeter that he normally hits. With hopes of getting a spark, Brooks pulled Porter out of the game in the fourth quarter for Marcus Thornton, who’s been inefficient for the majority of his NBA career.

Thornton finished the game with 7 points on 8 shot attempts. He couldn’t keep up defensively and the Wizards fell apart down the stretch.

If Thornton had the hot-hand, giving him run over Porter would’ve made sense, but Brooks was essentially just praying that he would catch fire.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, he was a liability defensively and didn’t contribute on the other end.

Former Wizard makes an impact

Nene had a relatively short career in Washington, but the big Brazilian changed the culture of the organization and became a key player in the NBA Playoffs.

He agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockets in the summer, lost a ton of weight and has been a consistent part of Mike D’Antoni‘s rotation.

Washington, ironically, decided not to re-sign Nene (granted, he likely wouldn’t have returned) and replaced him with younger talent.

Nene made two stops in the clutch and scored 9 points in 14 minutes. He overpowered the Wizards’ defense, giving the Rockets legitimate momentum.

The Wizards haven’t gotten any help from Ian Mahinmi, whom they signed for $64 million. Jason Smith has been largely invisible and Andrew Nicholson is out of the team’s rotation.

If Nene was still in D.C., he would still be playing valuable minutes.

Life lesson: don’t take good things for granted.

Wizards lack ‘killer instinct’

In a tightly packed East, every win and loss counts. The Washington Wizards can’t afford to drop winnable games, yet they’ve dropped a handful already. If they closed games down the stretch, they would be above .500, sitting comfortably in the standings.

But they still haven’t learned how to close the deal early. They allow teams to linger and then try to make up for it in the fourth quarter. Against a team like the Rockets, it’s impossible to win that way.

When the Wizards were up by double-digits, they should have stepped on the gas pedal and won the game early.

Some of it falls on the second unit, but it’s also on the coaching staff to get the team to play with energy for 48 minutes. The starters, even, started throwing the ball away and the Rockets capitalized.

Washington will head to Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Tuesday night – their second game in as many days.

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