Wizards, Wall face off against Rockets, red-hot Harden

HOUSTON — What was a dismal start to the season for the Washington Wizards has yielded to a run of success that seemed inevitable given the talented backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

And, even without Beal (ankle) on Friday night, the Wizards (16-16) closed the month of December with a 10-5 record via their 118-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Washington. The Wizards stretched their home winning streak to eight games, won for the seventh time in nine contests, and reached .500 for the first time this season, continuing their long trek from a miserable 2-8 start.

And while Beal, with averages of 21.8 points and 3.6 assists, is integral to that success, Wall remains the linchpin as the Wizards visit the Rockets (26-9) on Monday night at Toyota Center.

Wall finished with 19 points and 14 assists for his eighth double-double in nine games. The NBA is in full celebration of big point guards and Wall (6-4, 195) was at the forefront of that movement, with his current averages of 23.6 points, 10 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals showcasing his supreme talents.

“It’s a great month that we had. We’ve got to let it translate over to a new year,” Wall said. “We’ve got a good road trip coming up. We’re going to Houston, a team that’s hot and shoots a lot of 3s. But this is something to end the year that we wanted to, to get 10 wins in a month and getting back to where we thought we could be.

“If we didn’t get to the point where we are now we would have been in a lot of trouble. It would have put a lot of pressure on us. It was great for us to have a lot of home games — we got on a roll. Hopefully we can keep this going into a new year.”

The Wizards first game of 2017 is a matchup that will feature another dominant, big point guard in James Harden (6-5, 220).

Widely considered an early co-favorite for MVP honors along with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, Harden produced a historic performance on Saturday, becoming the first player in league history to post 50 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a single game. Harden finished with a career-high 53 points, 16 rebounds and a career-high-tying 17 assists in a 129-122 win over the New York Knicks.

Those mindboggling numbers left players and coaches from both teams scrambling for plaudits. Harden matched Wilt Chamberlain for the highest scoring output in a triple-double, and with averages of 28.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 12 assists is proving to be the best of the new supersized point guards.

“He is a great passer and he knows when to pass it and he has the size to look over guys and they have shooters out there which helps him spread the floor,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He was just great.”

Said Rockets forward Ryan Anderson: “It looked very effortless. But it just goes to show how great of a player he is. He’s just the best offensive player in my opinion by far in the NBA.”