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Wizards vs. Rockets Pregame: Fear The Beard, Just Not Its Defense

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Regular Season Game 20

Houston (10-12) at Washington (9-10)

December 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 99.1FM


Last time they met was..

March 29, 2015 at Verizon Center, Washington: Rockets 99, Wizards 91
READ: Game Notebook 74, Wizards vs. Rockets: DC, We Have a Problem


What to watch

There’s a new set of “Twin Towers” in Houston! Dwight Howard and Clint Capela! That tells you about all you need to know about how NBA Basketball has changed in the last 30 years. A term once reserved for Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson can now be applied to Dwight Howard and Clint Capela. But it’s kind of working!

The Rockets are 4-2 since they’ve inserted Capela into the starting lineup next to Dwight, and the duo is killing teams on the glass. They’re grabbing 28.1% of available offensive rebounds, second best in the league over the last 6 games.

Then again, the Rockets just lost to the lowly Brooklyn Nets, by allowing 110 points to a team averaging 96.2. So the jury is still out.

What’s clear is that the Rockets are in the midst of an identity crisis, and they’re grasping for solutions. The duo of Dwight and Capela provides second chances, but it completely neuters the Rockets offensive spacing. Neither player needs to be guarded beyond the restricted area, constricting driving and passing lanes for a team that previously thrived on driving and kicking for 3’s. And those 3’s that Daryl Morey and the Rockets love so much? They’re just not falling. But they’re still flying. Which brings us to…


Key matchup

Wizards vs. opponent 3-point shooting.

Thus far this season, the Wizards defense is getting torched beyond the 3-point arc. I wrote in depth about it here, but the summary is this: They are allowing too many open 3’s, they are allowing them in the wrong areas, and teams are taking full advantage. Teams are shooting 3’s better against the Wizards than they do against anyone else, by a league leading margin.

The Rockets love shooting 3’s. They rank second in the NBA in 3-point attempts at 31.0 per game, but are only hitting them at 33%, good for just 21st in the NBA. But the Wizards have been the antidote for any team poisoned by poor 3-point shooting this season, basically laying a red carpet around the arc. Ask Wes Matthews. Ask CJ Miles. Ask Paul George. If James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Corey Brewer receive the same type of VIP 3-point shooting treatment, the Wizards will fail to build on a quality win (Monday vs. Miami) once again.


X-factor:

James Harden. An MVP caliber player shouldn’t qualify as an “x-factor,” but James Harden fits the bill. His consistent inconsistency has left the Rockets with little to count on, from the one guy they expect to count on on a nightly basis. Hot or cold? Stirring or not stirring the pot? Ragged beard, or trimmed? Nobody knows. Look at these splits between Harden in wins and losses so far this season. The variation is truly staggering.

Wins: 35.5 points, 43% FG, 9.7 3-point attempts, 33% 3FG, 13.9 free throw attempts
Losses: 22.6 points, 35.8% FG, 7.4 3-point attempts, 27% 3FG, 9.3 free throw attempts

That’s a variation of THIRTEEN points per game. When Harden is on, he’s ON. He’s had games this season of 43, 46, 45, 40, and 50. He’s also been held under 20 four times, including last night against Brooklyn, when he scored 10 points and shot 2-for-9. Houston has many problems, but being unable to count on James Harden right now is at the root of all these problems.

Of course, there is one aspect of Harden’s game you can always count on….


Fun factor:

James Harden’s defense! No explanation needed, just this:

And this:

This is fun too:


Prediction:

Rockets prepare for launch…3…2…1…🔥

we are Hoop District

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