James Harden
Rockets-Wizards Preview
James Harden

Rockets-Wizards Preview

Published Dec. 9, 2015 12:22 a.m. ET

While the Washington Wizards should feel fortunate John Wall values his toughness, the Houston Rockets have certainly been more resilient with Patrick Beverley starting.

After Wall's surprisingly quick return, the Wizards will try to win consecutive contests for the first time in almost three weeks Wednesday night against the visiting Rockets.

Already struggling due in part to a short-handed roster, Washington held its collective breath Sunday when Wall was carried off with a knee injury late in a 116-104 loss to Dallas.

The two-time All-Star, though, declared himself ready to go the following night and finished with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting to key the Wizards' 114-103 win at Miami. Since averaging 13.9 points over an eight-game stretch, Wall has scored 28.0 per game in his last five.


He's also averaged 24.5 points and 10.3 assists in his past four meetings with Houston.

''I'm probably one of the toughest people you'll see,'' Wall said. ''I can't say if it wasn't broke I wouldn't play because I did that before, but it was just a time that we really want to play well.''

Gary Neal chipped in with 21 points, Bradley Beal added 21 and Otto Porter scored 13.

Washington has scored 107.8 per game over its last four but has been outrebounded 84-68 in its past two. Marcin Gortat's return could help in a matchup with Dwight Howard, though Howard could sit in the second of back-to-back games to rest his surgically repaired back.

Gortat had averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over three straight double-doubles before missing the past three while tending to his ailing mother in Poland.

The Wizards (9-10) haven't won back-to-back games since a season-high three-game run from Nov. 14-21. They've dropped eight of the last 10 home meetings with the Rockets.

Since averaging 99.7 points during a 5-10 start, Houston has scored 110.0 per game while winning five of its last seven. The Rockets (10-12), however, had their three-game winning streak snapped in Tuesday's 110-105 loss at Brooklyn.

The recent surge has coincided with coach J.B. Bickerstaff's decision to move Beverley into the starting lineup. Beverley has hit 14 of 28 from 3-point range and had 20 assists, 17 steals and only seven turnovers over his seven starts.

The Rockets, however, haven't been decidedly better defensively, allowing their second-highest shooting percentage of the season (55.6) against the Nets. They rank near the bottom of the league in defensive scoring (107.4) and defensive field-goal percentage (47.2).

Marcus Thornton finished with a season-high 32 points and hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range Tuesday, while Corey Brewer added 22 and made 4 of 8 from beyond the arc.

James Harden will try to regroup after he had a season-low 10 points. The NBA's second-leading scorer (28.5), Harden has averaged 29.2 in his last six meetings with the Wizards.

''Just poor decision-making, especially on my end,'' Harden said after committing seven of his team's season-high 24 turnovers. ''Had too many unforced turnovers.''

The Rockets should be able to score often against Washington, which has given up 108.3 points on 50.2 percent shooting - including 41.1 from 3-point range - in its last four games. The Wizards managed to win Monday despite allowing Miami to shoot 59.4 percent.

Former Wizards forward Trevor Ariza might be sidelined for Houston after he left Tuesday's game in the first quarter following a hard fall on a drive to the basket.


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