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Wiz Withstand Harden’s 54, Drop Rockets for 2nd Straight Win

The Washington Wizards overcame a 17-point first quarter deficit Monday to defeat the short-handed Houston Rockets in overtime, 135-131, at Capital One Arena, despite James Harden torching the Wizards for 54 points.

Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer, and backcourt mate Eric Gordon, subbing for the injured Chris Paul, combined for 90 points and 15 assists. The two engaged in an epic duel with the Wizards’ guard tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who scored a combined 68 points and dished out 15 assists.

“You watched a lot of high-level players play at a high level,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “Amazing players all had great games. The role players played like stars in their role.”

The Wizards (8-12), as their custom this year, started slow, while Houston shot 7-for-11 (63 percent) from 3-point range in the first, racing out to a 42-30 lead. However, the Rockets went 11-of-37 from deep the rest of the way, with nearly half of the team’s total shot attempts coming from beyond the arc.

The Rockets (9-10) lead the NBA in 3-point attempts at 41 per contest. Washington came into Monday’s contest ranked 11th at nearly 33 per game.

As for the Wizards, it marked the team’s second straight victory and third in its past four games since inserting forward Kelly Oubre Jr. and second-year center Thomas Bryant into the starting lineup.

“I think since we made the lineup change, everybody is just accepting their role,” said Wall, who scored six of his season-high 36 in overtime. He also recorded 11 assists. “Even in the first quarter when those guys got easy shots, not one time we talked about offense in the huddle. We just tried to figure out how can we help each other. I’m glad we came out with a win.”

Beal, who played nearly 50 minutes and scored 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, praised Harden’s step-back 3-pointer, especially after defending Harden for several stretches in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“I love my step-back, but I got to respect his,” Beal said. “When I’m one-on-one, I know that’s what he wants. It’s kind of fun because it challenges me. A guy who can hit you with a hesitation and quick pull-back and just pull up in your face. I love whenever I face against him because he makes me better.”

Markieff Morris, who has been replaced by Oubre in the starting lineup, still played about 41 minutes Monday, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

“[Harden] gets 54 in our own gym,” Morris said. “We don’t want to see that happen, but we were able to stick with it and make stops toward the end.”

Wizards center Dwight Howard missed his fourth straight game with a sore gluteal muscle. Rockets point guard Chris Paul also didn’t play with a sore left leg and shooting guard Gerald Green sat with a sore right ankle.

Harden, Gordon and small forward P.J. Tucker all played at least 43 minutes. After winning five straight games, Houston has lost three in a row, all on the road.

“Until we get our guys back and get some more bodies on the floor, it’s a long road trip [that] hit us with a schedule that was tough,” said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. “As you saw, [Harden] brought us back single-handedly and had us there. Just couldn’t close the deal because he got gassed, P.J., Eric and Clint [Capela]. We got some tired guys.”

Washington will go on the road Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans (10-11), which lost to the Wizards in D.C. on Saturday, but were without All-Star center Anthony Davis.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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